Solving Hunger: Keeping Communities Healthy & Strong

Healthy Food Leads to Stronger Community

Volunteers prepare to distribute healthy food at a Mobile Food Bank distribution site in Springfield last summer.

There is more than enough food in America to feed every man, woman and child. Yet, here in Western Massachusetts, more than 235,000 people are at risk of hunger and health problems that come with not having enough nutritious food to eat. As individuals, charities, businesses and government, we all have a role to play in getting more food to people in need. Together, we can solve hunger and help keep our communities healthy and strong. 

Last year, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts provided more than 7.5 million meals for people in need. As a member of Feeding America (the nationwide network of 200 food banks working together to provide food to more than 46 million people through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs across America) we also play a vital role in solving the nation’s problem of hunger. The network is focusing on securing fresh fruits and vegetable to promote healthier diets among the people we serve.

Despite the many misconceptions surrounding food insecurity and obesity, it is very common for the two to co-exist when lack of healthy food is an option. Often, there are no traditional grocery stores or markets that offer fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, meats or fish. In order to stretch their grocery budgets further, families with limited resources are routinely forced to purchase low-cost foods loaded with calories, with little to no nutritional value. Studies have also shown that when food is scarce, a person’s body adapts by retaining more weight, much that of a yoyo-dieter. Parents and caregivers with small children are often victims of this type of weight-gain as they often skip meals themselves so that their children will have enough to eat.

The Food Bank is committed to providing healthy food to our neighbors in need. Last year, we sourced more than 1.7 million pounds of fresh produce (378,000 of which was from local farms). Much of the produce is distributed directly to the communities that have limited access to healthy food, via our Mobile Food Bank (which has expanded to now include 12 distribution locations) or through our Brown Bag: Food For Elders program. We recently completed an upgrade to our warehouse in Hatfield (with support from Feeding America, thanks to the General Mills Foundation) which more than doubled our capacity to store fresh produce for distribution to our member agencies, which includes food pantries, meal sites and shelters.

We have an opportunity for your entire family to get involved and support The Food Bank. In partnership with Hilltown Families, we will be hosting a Family Volunteer Day on Saturday, September 12 from 9 – 11:30 a.m. This is a chance to learn about the issue of food insecurity in our region and the impact it has on the community. All ages are welcome, as families are invited to help prepare food to be distributed to pantries and meal sites across Western Massachusetts. Reservations are required by contacting The Food Bank’s Education Coordinator at 413-247-9738.
Family Volunteer DaysReturning for the third year and in partnership with Hilltown Families, Family Volunteer Day continues to be one of the most popular activities during Hunger Action Month. All ages are welcome to join in on Saturday, September 12th. Stop in anytime between 9 – 11:30 a.m. Guests can choose from a number of educational hands-on activities. Sorting and packaging food donations, creating healthy snacks at the nutrition workshop, and touring the warehouse are just some of the opportunities. To register your family or find out more details, contact The Food Bank’s Education Coordinator at 413-247-9738 or sign up here.

Visit The Food Bank website for a complete listing of all the ways you can take action during Hunger Action Month.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Wojcik is the Marketing & Communications Manager at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts is committed to feeding our neighbors in need and leading the community to end hunger. Founded in 1982, The Food Bank is the leading provider of emergency food that reaches individuals and families in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties. From their warehouse in Hatfield, they distribute food to their member agencies (which include food pantries, meal sites and shelters) throughout the region. They continue to build a stronger community through a variety of initiatives, including our Mobile Food Bank, SNAP outreach, nutrition education, and our Brown Bag: Food for Elders program.

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