As a food bank, the food we distribute goes directly to solving hunger. But what if food could do more than that? What if the food we distribute to our community could also lower the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, reduce learning and behavioral problems in children, and keep adults with chronic illnesses out of emergency rooms?
When it comes to health—especially for vulnerable populations like the low-income, children and seniors—poor nutrition can be as devastating as hunger. The 2011 National Health Interview Survey documents the many adverse health effects of food insecurity—from obesity and heart disease to difficulty affording medications. In addition, nearly 1 in 3 U.S. adults with a chronic disease has problems paying for food, medicine, or both. An endless cycle of distributing unhealthy food doesn’t solve problems; in fact, it contributes to them.
Food can and should do more than resolve immediate hunger—it should nourish, protect, and heal the body.
What can food banks do? As an organization with the infrastructure to deliver millions of pounds of food to our neighborhoods, we are uniquely positioned to make a difference in the health of our community. Food banks across the country have been implementing innovative solutions, such as providing nutrition education, making specific foods available to those with medical conditions that require a restricted diet, and partnering with public health agencies.
At the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, we believe that hunger and health go hand in hand. Food can and should do more than resolve immediate hunger—it should nourish, protect, and heal the body. We remember the words of Hippocrates, who said “Let food be thy medicine.”