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A food pantry, or food bank, provides food to those who are unable to afford food due to economic issues. These issues can range from job loss, homelessness, natural disaster, etc. Most commonly it is low income households that find food banks most convenient as food banks are, according to the Houston Food Bank website, “a private, nonprofit organization.” These nonprofits organizations offer food to in need households at no charge as part of their charitable services. This of course is ideal for those households that have only one working or no working adults. The demographics show in the chart below, taken from page sixty-one of a hunger study done by Houston Food Bank, show that the highest number of usage in all categories of service that Houston Food Bank offers is that of people who are unemployed. This fits with the claim that those who are part of in need and low income households take full advantage of the services and help that Houston Food Bank, and other organizations like it, offers to the public. Naturally those in charge of the Houston Food Bank, and organizations like it, know that these in need and low income households rely on them for help when it comes to staying fed and keeping their households from food insecurity.
The explanation of Food Insecurity from the Texas Food Bank Network is, “Food insecurity means that consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” The graph to the side, taken from tfbn.org, shows a brief representation of the recent increase in food insecurity in homes as the years have progressed up until the year 2010. Texas Food Bank Network explains “that the two primary causes of food insecurity are poverty (i.e. not having enough money to meet one’s needs) and unemployment.” This of course correlates closely to the state of the economy, which when it suffers results in unemployment and funds being cut short in households. When this happens households find themselves turning to alternative ways to keep their families fed until the household can be supported independently again. It is because of this reason that these organizations makes sure they are providing healthy and nutritious food for those people that come to them seeking help. The website for Feeding America lists themselves as being “uniquely positioned to help those who struggle with hunger while also promoting better nutrition by increasing access to healthful foods like fruits and vegetables, raising awareness of the coexistence of hunger with other diet-related diseases, and by promoting nutrition education.”
As a partner of Feeding America, Houston Food Bank adheres to this and offers “a nutrition education program to address food insecurity and hunger by using USDA materials and guidelines to achieve nutritional goals.” By doing this food banks are working to try and prevent health related issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Houston Food Bank is also teaching young children early on about healthy eating and how to maintain a healthy diet. This information is also available to adults along with several healthy meal recipes listed on the website. However because Houston Food Bank is a nonprofit charity it relies on donations and without donations these beneficial programs would not exist. Most donations to food banks are most commonly made by: community food drives, retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, brokers, growers, and shippers. The flow chart below, pulled from Houston Food Bank’s webpage, further explains the process that follows after the donation contributions.
Donations are taken, received by the food bank, inspected, stored, then finally picked up or delivered to partner agencies where the food is either given to the persons that requested assistance or cooked in kitchens. Most commonly to accomplish the successful delivery of the food to those in need a shopping list is comprised that lists the available choices from what is in storage. From there food bank knows what to deliver and has a way of knowing what they might need more of in the future.
Thanks to food pantries like Houston Food Bank, who provide the charitable services they do, hunger and food insecurity are slowly being minimized in an effort to eradicate the issue of food insecurity altogether. All the while an agenda of healthy eating and nutritious living is being promoted that could quite possibly have an effect in areas such as obesity in both children and adults. Food pantries are doing more than just offering a service and charity; they are offering healthy alternatives to facing hunger in difficult times.
Causes and Solutions TFBN. (2012). Texas Food Bank Network. Retrieved 2012, from http://tfbn.org/hunger-in-texas/causes-and-solutions/ Houston Food Bank. (2010). Houston Food Bank. Retrieved 2012, from http://www.houstonfoodbank.org/aboutus.aspx Houston Food Bank. (2010). Houston Food Bank. Retrieved 2012, from http://www.houstonfoodbank.org/what_is_a_food_bank.aspx Mabli, J., Cohen, R., Potter, F., & Zhao, Z. (2010). HUNGER IN AMERICA 2010. 61. Retrieved from http://www.houstonfoodbank.org/uploadedFiles/HoustonFoodBank/FINAL%20REPORT%20-Hunger%20Study.pdf. Nutrition and Feeding America. (2012). Feeding America: Hunger-Relief Charity | FeedingAmerica.org. Retrieved 2012, from http://feedingamerica.org/how-we-fight-hunger/programs-and-services/nutrition.aspx