For people struggling with food insecurity, eating a consistent and healthy, balanced diet is too often unattainable.
When living on a limited or set budget, individuals and families struggling with hunger often resort to buying inexpensive foods. These tend to be higher in fat, sodium and sugar thus contributing to and even exacerbating other dietary concerns such as obesity, heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. For children, the impact of a poor diet extends even further, contributing to delayed cognitive developments, higher rates of hospitalization, and psychosocial, behavioral, emotional and academic challenges.
Feeding America has taken the lead in understanding the complex and multifaceted relationship between food insecurity, nutrition and health. Feeding America actively looks to increase the mix of healthful foods distributed through the nationwide network of food banks. Currently, 68% of the foods distributed are categorized as Foods to Encourage, a framework of the nutritional contributions of more healthful food categories (i.e., fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low/non-fat dairy) for distribution to people in need.
Feeding America network food banks are addressing the intersection of food insecurity, nutrition and health by promoting high-impact nutrition education and building strategic partnerships with the nutrition and health sector. Many of these efforts are led by registered dietitians, social workers, registered nurses and/or other nutrition and health professionals on staff at the national and local levels.
Most recently, Feeding America and three of its member food banks collaborated with local health care providers on a pilot Diabetes Initiative to improve the health outcomes of individuals who are food insecure or at risk for food insecurity and also affected by type 2 diabetes. The food banks have created collaborative food bank-health center partnerships with more than 40 community health and hospital organizations. They provide diabetes screening at emergency food pantries, offer nutrition and disease education and care coordination, and improve access to healthy foods. Results from this innovative study will be released in late 2014.
To stay engaged with our nutrition and health efforts, visit Feeding America’s nutrition and health-focused microsite, Healthy Food Bank Hub.