Whenever I think about the foods that food pantries provide, I have a question that bubbles up in the back of my mind – would I use this food to feed my family? As a mom and a registered dietitian, this question holds double meaning and requires me to think about both the food quality and also nutritional value. I consider whether my family would enjoy eating this and whether I would use our dollars to purchase this myself.
Last week, Jennifer Heinen and I presented at the Association of Jewish Family and Children's Agencies annual conference in San Diego, California about creating healthy food pantries. As registered dietitians, this work is so meaningful because we are able to promote health on a large scale among the people who rely on food pantries each month. As we shared with the 30 session attendees, here are a few reasons why creating healthy food pantries matters:
- 1 in 7 American households is food insecure
- 54% of food pantry clients visit food pantries for more than half of the year
- People who are food insecure are at higher risk for certain chronic diseases
We also shared our five favorite tools available to food pantries when making nutritional improvements:
- Feeding America's Healthy Food Bank Hub
As more food pantries use these tools to improve the foods available, maybe we will all be able to say that yes, we would feed our families from our favorite food pantry.
We were pleased to present about creating healthy food pantries along with three colleagues from other JFS organizations: Lara Wellerstein from Mercer County in New Jersey discussed promoting wellness, Beth Levine from Boca Raton in Florida discussed promoting dignity, and Kathleen Poth from Pittsburg in Pennsylvania discussed promoting volunteerism.
Alison Kaufman, MS, RD, LDN is passionate about making the choice to eat healthy foods easier for all. As the JF&CS Director of Hunger and Nutrition, she oversees the Hunger and Nutrition program, established the Greater Boston Hunger Network, and created Home Cooking without a Kitchen cookbook. Really good tomatoes are her favorite food.