Tag: hunger

Improving the Nutrition Profile of Food Donations

Hunger impacts one in seven people in the United States. Children, older adults, and those who are homeless are particularly susceptible to the impact of stress and inadequate nutrition for healthy growth and development and/or disease management that accompanies hunger.

The Feeding America Network includes 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs that aim to get nourishing food to people in need. In fact, they serve more than 46 million people each year. To serve all of these individuals, Feeding America relies on donations from individuals and corporations. The great news is that donating food is easy. In fact, more people donate to food drives each year than watch the Super Bowl.

The less than great news is that many of the items donated are high in sodium and/or sugar, which could be particularly harmful for growing children and adults managing chronic diseases like diabetes or heart disease. Fortunately, this trend is starting to change. NPR’s WNYC provides a positive example of how Washington D.C.’s Capital Area Food Bank has significantly reduced (by 84%) the amount of junk food it supplies by being more clear in their requests for the types of foods they want to be able to offer.

The #GiveHealthy Movement is also changing how and what people donate. The #GiveHealthy movement uses technology to allow hunger relief organizations to specify the types of healthy food items they desire. For example, this may include fresh fruit, vegetables, or other healthy food items. Food drive organizers can then connect with and share specific hunger organizations’ wish lists. Donors can purchase identified items and everything will be delivered, at no cost, to the organization.

What we eat matters. What we donate matters. And there is finally support to change the nutrition profile of what we offer to support those in need. I challenge you to #GiveHealthy and to support others to as well.

 

Sources:             

Feeding America. http://www.feedingamerica.org/research/hunger-in-america/facts-and-faces/

#GiveHealthy. Hunger is a Health Issue. http://givehealthy.org/index.php/givehealthy-food-drive-2017/hunger-is-a-health-issue/

WNYC. NPR. One of America’s Biggest Food Banks Just Cut Junk Food By 84 Percent in a Year. http://www.wnyc.org/story/one-of-americas-biggest-food-banks-just-cut-junk-food-by-84-percent-in-a-year/

Faces of Hunger

By: Courtney Luecking MPH, MS, RD Doctoral candidate: Nutrition

Although our nation is considered a Land of Plenty, the alarming truth is that a large number of people experience food insecurity. A newly released report indicates that in 2015, 42.2 million households (not people) were, at times, food insecure.

food-insecurity

What does food insecure mean? About a decade ago, the United States Department of Agriculture introduced new terminology to capture the range of food insecurity people face. Essentially food insecure means at any given time, households are unable to get adequate food for one or more people in the home. Inadequate food may mean reduced quality, variety, desirability, or reduced food intake and disrupted patterns of eating. The term hunger, is often used to describe a consequence of food insecurity.

Other consequences of food insecurity affect both individuals and society. Food insecurity can impact an individual’s mental and physical health, learning, and productivity. At the societal level it can influence family and social dynamics as well as economic development (Hamelin et al., 1999).

National Geographic has a wonderful feature on The New Face of Hunger. The personal stories, pictures, and facts tackle our preconceived ideas about what hunger looks like and what people experience. I highly recommend you give it a read.

new-face-of-hunger

If you are looking for help with food insecurity, start with these links:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): learn and apply
  • Find your local food bank
  • Find local food pantries

If you have help to offer:

  • Map the Meal Gap to find out what food insecurity looks like in your area.
  • Get involved with local food banks or food pantries (see links above)

 

Resources:

Cohen JH and Zagorsky JL. If America is the land of plenty, why do millions go hungry?

Newsweek, March 13, 2016.

Feeding America

Hamelin AM, Habicht JP, Beaudry M. (1999) Food insecurity: Consequences for the household and broader social implications. J Nutr, 129(2): 525S-528S.

McMillan, T. The New Face of Hunger. National Geographic Magazine.

United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Food Security in the U.S.

Feature image: Quotes on Fighting Hunger.

Wasting Away

Do you ever think about what grocery stores do with their excess food or food that is close to its expiration date? Sadly, the most common fate for these is foods the garbage. The shocking amount of perfectly edible food that ends up in landfills across the country is a serious concern, especially in a world where hunger is still a major public health concern.

But why does this happen? Couldn’t companies donate the surplus products that they won’t be able to sell to those who desperately need them? Well, it turns out that goodwill isn’t always enough to enable businesses to take this obvious and socially responsible action.

John Oliver addresses these issues as he presents an entertaining yet thought-provoking discussion on food waste in the U.S. in this episode of his HBO show “Last Week Tonight.”

Despite the barriers that exist to donating excess food (like uncertain tax breaks, processing and shipping costs, fear of lawsuits, etc.), former Trader Joe’s president, Doug Rauch, decided to try and tackle the problem by opening Daily Table, a not-for-profit grocery store in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston.

By getting donations or discounted rates from growers, supermarkets, manufacturers, and other suppliers, the store is able to stock a varying selection of significantly discounted grocery items (we’re talking 99 cents for a dozen eggs and bananas at 29 cents per pound) as well as prepared foods made in-house using nutrition guidelines set by nutrition experts and priced to compete with unhealthy fast food options. This allows people to access healthy food options despite economic challenges or lack of time.

 

Do you think this is a viable solution to address food waste and/or food insecurity in the U.S.? Can you think of other potential solutions?

Wellness Wednesdays: The Myth of Perfect Produce

Mother nature is perfectly imperfect. Fruits and vegetables (real’ food) come from natural, living organisms, and as anyone with children can tell you, life is ‘difficult’ [read: impossible] to control. Regardless, we insist on imposing our collective willpower to grow ‘perfect’ food – we rely more and more upon machines and chemicals to achieve greater yields, growing acre after acre of the single variety of corn, or cucumber, or orange that we have determined to be the most preferable.

And what are these preferences? The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspects cotton, tobacco, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, using a grading system based on measurable attributes such as color, firmness, and texture. While there are eight different grades of meat (ranging from ‘prime’ to ‘canner’) and only three grades for poultry and eggs (ranging from ‘A’ to ‘C’), there are 312 different grades for fruits and vegetables. Although this system was originally developed as part of an attempt to ensure the safety of the American food supply, its cumbersome guidelines are now contributing to some of our most pressing problems: food waste and food insecurity.

According to Feeding America, nearly 50 million people (1 in 7) are food insecure, defined by the USDA’s Economic Research Service as ‘reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet, with or without decreased food intake’. However, many ‘aesthetically imperfect’ fruits and vegetables are actively prohibited from sale by industry ‘marketing orders’ [read: specifications used by food purchasers] based on the USDA grading system. Encouraging the disposal of all this edible, nutritious food has led to our current problem with food waste in the United States, where nearly 40% of all the food grown is thrown away (National Resources Defense Council, 2012 Report).

The next time you’re in the grocery store, looking for that perfect apple, or blemish-free tomato, take a minute to remember the incredible journey that produce has taken. Resist the urge to ‘eat with your eyes’ – that lumpy potato or misshapen carrot is just as good for you as any of the glossy, perfect fruits and vegetables you see in the media. We don’t need to grow twice as much food to feed the world – we just need to stop throwing half of it away.

 

Solving the Hunger/Waste Paradox

Food wasteRoughly fifty million Americans – including over 16 million children – live in food insecure households, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The brutal irony? Forty percent of our nation’s food ends up in the trash.

The FlashFood mobile app aims to redirect these wasted resources to those who need them, according to Sustainable Brands. The app allows restaurants, catering companies and hotels – all of which contribute to the $250 billion worth of food wasted each year – to notify FlashFood when they have food they’re about to toss. FlashFood personnel then pick up the food and distribute it to local community centers.

FlashFood, developed by a group of Arizona State university students, builds on the work of existing food recovery organizations, such as the Society of St. Andrew. But FlashFood offers something the others do not: convenience. I suspect that few companies with excess food take the time to track down, call and coordinate with food recovery groups. Getting companies to donate food rather than chuck it likely means streamlining the donation process – essentially, making donating food as convenient as throwing it away. In my opinion, a mobile app has the potential to increase the ease of donating and, as a result, up its appeal. Do you agree?

Image source: www.totallygreen.org

plates of food

Too much or too little? Neither’s too good.

We do a lot of talking about food pricing, 3 liter pop, the size of our cereal bowls, extreme carrots, and the list goes on. Yet we rarely talk about the lack of food. In the United States, the USDA estimates that 16.7 million children are hungry every day. They estimate in the US 49 million children and adults are hungry. Yet nearly 1/3 of Americans who are obese or overweight. Too extreme are casued by the same thing–food–too much or too little, neither is good.

While America is struggling with both obesity and hungry, other countries are struggling with only hunger. In 2010, worldwide, there were 925 million hungry people. The problem is not the lack of actual food. The problem is the agricultural mechanisms (how the food is actually produced and by whom); distribution of the food; the availability of the food; and the pricing of the food (healthy or unhealthy). The root cause of why the distribution of food is inequitable varies country to country from political to infrastructure to natural resources yet in this ever globalizing world hunger is often overlooked in order to focus on the obese. Yet solution to both are essential the same. Yet in order to achieve meaningful change for either epidemic, neither can be ignored. Waging a two-front health communication campaign is rarely effective, but in this case maybe it is warranted.