Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice
To make room for more healthy food on our shelves and to continue to meet the demand for fresh produce, milk and lean protein, Second Harvest Heartland has come up with a plan to deliver more hard-to-come-by foods on a large scale.
With the help of our mighty network of food shelf and meal program partners, we will double the amount of lean protein we distribute, ensure year-round access to milk, and increase the volume of fruits and vegetables in our mix. And we will make way for 830,000 more healthy meals next year by removing candy and soda from our inventory. Following the example of smart leaders in the hunger-relief community, these changes allow us to give clients what they are looking for: more fresh, healthy food.
“The food shelves and meal programs in our community are the best and most consistent sources of nutrition for many people,” said Second Harvest Heartland Chief Operations Officer Thierry Ibri. “We take this responsibility very seriously and want to make the most of every foot of warehouse space and every truck full of food.”
People who use food shelves live with six times the diet-related diseases as those who are food secure. The long-term health outlook for those reliant on cheap calories is grim. Specifically, consumption of sugar-added beverages increases weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and risk of premature death.
“Some people feel if a person is of a larger build that they must not be not hungry, when in truth they might be ‘starving nutritionally,’” said Margaret Palan, community resource coordinator at United Community Action Partnership. “Carbs can fill up a tummy and are less expensive to purchase for the most part, but the nutritional value is limited.”
United Community Action Partnership (UCAP), a hunger-relief organization that serves the southwestern Minnesota communities of Cottonwood, Jackson, Marshall and Tracy among others, was a key partner in developing the new nutrition policy.
“In every survey we conduct, we hear from clients that they want access to more fresh produce and meat,” said Palan. “We are so happy Second Harvest Heartland is making this change. We get more than enough sweets from our food rescue partners, so this is a welcome change.”
Liz Riley, director of programs at Valley Outreach, a hunger-relief organization in Stillwater and another important partner in the nutrition policy, agrees that the change to focus on healthier foods is something food shelf clients have been requesting for a long time.
“We served 9,000 individuals last year,” she said. “Our clients have led the way in asking for better choices, and it’s terrific to be able to offer what they prefer to feed their families. With Second Harvest Heartland making this a priority, it just got easier.”
While Second Harvest Heartland will no longer accept donations of candy or soda, there may still be a minimal amount of candy and soda donated by retail partners through the Retail Food Rescue program—honoring a longstanding partnership with retailers that makes it possible for food banks and pantries to access millions of pounds of produce, dairy, meat and other high-value client favorites.
“Just a few years ago, 23 percent of the food we delivered was fresh, now it’s nearly 60 percent,” said Ibri. “The latest improvements to our sourcing will allow us to deliver more fresh produce year-round, more lean protein than ever before and more high-demand items like milk consistently.”
To learn more about our new nutrition policy, visit 2harvest.org/nutritionpolicy.