March is National Nutrition Month
Feeding America, a network of more than 200 food banks, today announced significant new achievements in its efforts to increase the quantity and quality of the food its food banks provide to Americans living at risk of hunger.
The announcement was made to coincide with the launch of National Nutrition Month®, a nutrition education and information campaign celebrated each March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest association of food and nutrition professionals and a partner of Feeding America. National Nutrition Month focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.
Nearly six million Americans each week rely on food pantries and kitchens served by Feeding America to help feed themselves and their families.
Many of our food banks now view themselves as more than a distribution center for food. Feeding America’s 2011 report Food Banks: Hunger’s New Staple found that more than one third of all people visiting food pantries (36 percent) report that they have used a food pantry for more than 28 consecutive months, on average.
“As the result of these findings, we believe that we have an obligation to ensure that a significant percentage of the food our clients receive through our network is healthful, high in protein and nutrient rich. Providing such food to our clients is the ‘new frontier’ of food banking,” said Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America.
Food banking has evolved into a complex system today—with increased demand for food, and an increased understanding of diet-related public health crises, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity. “Hunger relief looks much different than it did when Feeding America began nearly 35 years ago,” Aiken said.
“One of our main strategic goals has been to significantly increase the amount of fresh produce we provide to our clients. We are very pleased to note that in this fiscal year, 2014, we will set a new record for our organization by distributing more than 1 billion pounds of fresh produce,” Aiken said. “Before the founding of Feeding America, much of this produce was often plowed under or left unharvested. We have made tremendous strides rescuing produce for our clients.”
A number of food banks are also involved in farm and garden programs, which provide additional sources of fresh and local produce to food banks throughout the nation. Many farmers across the country grow a portion of their harvest for their local food bank and home gardeners donate home-grown produce to local food pantries.
There is no universal standard definition of “nutritious” food, so Feeding America developed the term Foods to Encourage describing the types of healthful food categories it is working to obtain for the clients they serve. Foods to Encourage is based on the current USDA My Plate guidelines, which are modelled on recommendations from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In general, the guidelines suggest that healthy Americans’ diets should consist of mostly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts and a limited amount of saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars.
Feeding America’s national office has surpassed its goal, established by the board of directors, of ensuring that 67 percent of the total food distributed by the network is categorized as Foods to Encourage. Feeding America distributed 3.9 billion pounds of food in fiscal 2013.
Millions of people living in food insecure households, and coping with a limited food budget, often find that it is very difficult to follow the recommended dietary guidelines. This is due to numerous factors, primarily the high cost and limited availability of many healthful foods. Lack of nutrition education and lack of kitchen resources also have shown to be obstacles for preparing healthful meals.
Feeding America is addressing these issues in various ways:
• More than 79 percent of Feeding America food banks provide nutrition education.
• More than 60 food banks report working with registered dietitians.
• Many Feeding America food banks have medical partnerships, including community clinics.
The Healthy Food Bank Hub is Feeding America’s most recent initiative. Launched in October 2013, it is a public website developed in partnership with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and National Dairy Council. Through this partnership and engagement among these respective networks, we are working to enhance efforts that more holistically meet the complex needs of people living at risk of hunger.
The Healthy Food Bank Hub was created to provide educational information, strategies, tools, resources and healthy recipes to professionals in the fields of nutrition, health and hunger relief. Each low-cost recipe on the site has been rigorously evaluated with particular needs and barriers in mind.
This March, the site will launch an interactive forum that promotes discussion of food insecurity, nutrition and health.
By collaborating with other community-based organizations and healthcare partners, Feeding America is developing solutions for addressing food insecure and diet-related health issues that many of the families and individuals they serve face.
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Feeding America is the nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. Together, we provide food to more than 46 million people through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs in communities across America. Feeding America also supports programs that improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger. Donate. Volunteer. Advocate. Educate. Together we can solve hunger. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.