Everyone feels hunger. It is the body’s way of informing us we need food for energy and to carry out life’s everyday functions. For some, having access to foods rich in vitamins and minerals and in the quantities that our bodies need can be a challenge. According to a recent Feeding American study, 42 million people (1 out of 8) and 13 million children (1 out of 6) fall into this category and are referred to as food insecure. The hunger crisis can range from mild to severe. It can include everything from safely accessing food, to choosing quantity over quality; and if severe, it can lead to no food for one or more days. As a result, children that are facing food insecurity can be at risk for being underweight due to quantity of foods available or overweight because of the quality of them. This factor can be the beginning of lifelong health consequences such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes that children facing food insecurity may encounter.
How can you help?
To help fight food insecurity in your school and surrounding community consider conducting a healthy food drive. Every donation matters and leads to improving the overall health of your school and community. This article will help you understand what a healthy food is, examples of foods you should aim to collect, and overall guidance on best practices to organize an event. Hunger is an everyday struggle, consider healthy food drives often to help fight food insecurity and impact the overall health of the school’s population.
What is a healthy food drive?
A healthy food drive focuses on asking donors for a variety of foods from each of the food groups that include nutrient-dense foods and beverages. These are foods that provide key vitamins and minerals that are important for health and are reduced in fat, sugar, and sodium. Collecting foods from different foods groups can help create balanced packages for families or contributions you are providing to local food pantries. A few examples to collect include canned meats (especially tuna in water), canned fruit packed in water, no sugar added apple sauce, dried fruits, 100% juice, peanut butter, low sodium beans and soups, whole grain cereals, oatmeal, brown rice, dry milk, no salt added vegetables, and whole wheat pastas. Emphasis should be on collecting healthy foods that can be prepared in kitchens with modest preparation equipment. Check all donated foods for an expiration date. If it says “Best if used by”, indicates after the date listed the food is still safe to eat, its just not going to provide optimal taste. If the package says, “Use by”, the food should not be consumed after the date stamped.
What foods should you collect?
There are many items you can collect for a healthy food drive. A few examples were listed above. For a more complete list and description view the list developed by Feeding America at https://hungerandhealth.feedingamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/legacy/mp/files/tool_and_resources/files/healthy-food-donation-list.pdf
How do I organize a food drive?
To get started, use an existing group or class at your school or form a new group to lead the charge. Next identify and contact a local food bank or pantry in your community to partner with. This will help you identify foods that are in need and better understand the hunger in your community. The next step is to select the dates your food drive will begin and end and the location where food can be dropped off. Next, for a successful healthy food drive be sure to educate employees, students, families, and other volunteers about what food items you are specifically looking for. This is a great place for students to use their creativity to work together and take the lead. Meal kits with the ingredients to make a healthy recipe may increase consumption of food items received while increasing skills of the audience. Make sure to include the recipes in the languages needed. Students could find recipes and put together meal kits. Finally, if the food items are going beyond your school to a food pantry or food bank, schedule a date and time for delivery.
Food drives. Feeding America. (2021). Retrieved October 13, 2021, from https://www.feedingamerica.org/ways-to-give/food-drives
Healthy Food Donation List – hunger and health. Feeding America. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2021, from https://hungerandhealth.feedingamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/legacy/mp/files/tool_and_resources/files/healthy-food-donation-list.pdf.
The Impact of the Coronavirus on Food Insecurity in 2020 & 2021. Feeding America. (2021, March). Retrieved October 13, 2021, from https://www.feedingamerica.org/sites/default/files/2021-03/National%20Projections%20Brief_3.9.2021_0.pdf.
Organize A Food Drive. AARP. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2021, from https://createthegood.aarp.org/volunteer-guides/organize-food-drive.html
Lori Johnson, Family & Consumer Sciences Agent, UF/IFAS Extension, Lake County
Angelika Keene, Community Development Agent, UF/IFAS Extension, Brevard County