School nutrition standards have been under heavy fire for a long while now and the proposed improvements to the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids of Act of 2010 have generated a highly energized movement that is attempting to ensure that kids are given a variety of healthy food choices outside of federally supported meal programs. While the emotionally charged response to what some might consider irresponsible food policy in schools in justifiable, what about those who struggle to put food on the table and are dependent upon food banks and charitable organizations in order to survive?
According to a recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, food banks are struggling to implement nutrition-based policies to fight obesity and diet-related disease that may adversely affect food donor relationships and the quality and quantity of food distribution without fully understanding the impact moving to healthier foods may have upon the community. While some facilities have been successful in implementing policies that prevent the distribution of low-nutrient products (soda, candy, etc.), many have faced obstacles in developing strong nutrition policies and deciding which foods should be permitted while still providing an adequate amount of assistance to the communities in greatest need.
Feeding America, the network to which the 20 surveyed food banks belong, is attempting to overcome the disparity in nutrition programs and health by educating its member facilities through strategic partnerships with the USDA’s MyPlate program, but are often unable to overcome access and affordability issues associated with providing a healthful diet.
Questions regarding social responsibility aside, what concerns me most is that food banks and similar organizations are being subjected to the same political and community influence as schools without the publicity benefit that has allowed such tremendous gains to be made in out nation’s schools. Is the nutrition of those whose subsistence is dependent upon the charity of others less of a concern than those who are able to purchase a la carte items when the urge arises? I think not and here is a way for you to support the health and wellness of those less fortunate than our selves.
Is this the perfect example of food injustice? I’ll let you be the judge, but when the voices of those in need are muffled by the controversy surrounding what people are choosing to eat, those without choice will be left as an afterthought.
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo via USDAgov