Nutritious food is not equally available to everyone. When we do not struggle ourselves with getting enough to eat, it can be easy to forget this. But in reality, food insecurity can impact anyone at anytime, and those who are hungry today are “you and me, with a little more bad luck” (Wallace, 2014). Because of this, it is important to know where we can all go in our community to find support when we need it. These resources may include formal government programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Women, Infant, and Children SNAP; however, the true backbone in the fight against hunger is informal supports such as local food shares, food rescue programs, and Meals on Wheels. Nonprofits like the Food Bank for Larimer County and The Growing Project are “becoming the new social safety net” for our food secure future (Wallace, 2014).
Food Share: direct service food pantries in Loveland and Fort Collins offering free, nutritious food to over 13,000 people each month
Child Nutrition: Kids Café provides children 3-18 years old experiencing hunger access to a nutritious meal after school and during summer months; the focus of the Café is nutrition! Kids Link directly provides two-part snacks to students in schools with over 50% free and reduced breakfast and lunch enrollment; school staff can also shop at the Food Bank for snacks to take back to the students. Backpack provides homeless children in need (referred by schools) with a supplemental weekend food pack filled with nutritious food such as complete meals, snacks, and beverages that are easy for even young children to prepare. These programs are exceeding school and USDA standards for nutrition!
Nutrition Programming: the bi-monthly Tasting Table allows people shopping in Food Share to taste fresh produce in simple recipes, as well as take a copy of the healthy recipe home. The Food Bank focuses on cooking healthy food in their kitchen using raw, nutritious, and fresh ingredients. They also administer a Nutrition Survey to learn more about client fruit and vegetable consumption. Finally, the Food Bank partners with farmers, gardeners, and grocers in the Plant it Forward program to ensure surplus food is rescued, donated and redistributed to individuals and families in need. Over 300,000 pounds of produce was distributed in March!
To learn more about the Food Bank click here!
Malnutrition points to another problem in our society – wage inequality. The cost of living everywhere seems to be increasing (especially in Larimer County), while at the same time wages are stagnant, our government is reluctant to increase minimum wage, and the income gap is only getting more severe. As the 99% become poorer and the 1% wealthier, the rates of food insecurity will only increase. This economic inequality is fueled by corrupt lobbyists and outdated, negligent food and farm policies in this country. For example, the cheapest foods have always been the least nutritious and the most processed, showing what the government has been willing to subsidize since the Great Depression and World War II! Come on – have we not learned anything since then? If fruits, vegetables, and whole foods keep getting more expensive, then as people become poorer, they may choose fruits and vegetables even less than they do now.
Clients at the Food Bank for Larimer County express gratitude for the fruits and vegetables that are made available to them. Future research may show evidence that they are also choosing to consume fruits and vegetables more, cooking with more nutritious, whole, fresh ingredients, and would like to see more fruits and vegetables at the Food Bank. Continuing to increase food availability, awareness, and education for everyone may shift our food environment to one that values healthy eating and nutrition. Ultimately, “hunger is not part of a crisis or emergency anymore, but part of sustainability in America” (Wallace, 2014). As we move the “nutrition needle” in the direction of wellness, massive scale systematic change becomes possible and together we can foster long lasting tolerance and community.