The latest USDA statistics backup the need to put hunger in the spotlight as there has been an increase among Americans who rely on food assistance. According to the USDA, the largest increase of families using emergency food from a pantry rose by over 40 percent to slightly over 5.5 million households annually during the recession. Here’s the shocking statistic: the use of food pantries by married-couple families (translation: intact families) during this time rose over 65 percent.
This increase in usage is nothing new to Latchman Hiralall, the Food Pantry Manger at the very busy Boston Medical Center’s (BMC) pantry. This compact pantry, which provides healthy foods to the BMC patients and their families, has seen a 70 percent increase in its patrons during the recession.
Unfortunately, hunger isn’t isolated to the inner city. According to the USDA, food pantry usage in suburban areas outpaced city dwellers’ usage for the first time since 2001. In other words, there’s a good chance that your neighbor in the suburbs may not be cooking dinner because, well, they have nothing to cook.
Just ask Alison Kaufman, MS, RD, the Director of Hunger and Nutrition at the suburban, Jewish Family and Children's Service of Greater Boston in Waltham. “The number of people being served by our pantry, Family Table, has doubled in the past few years. We are providing almost 200,000 meals annually to households who are food insecure.” As a registered dietitian, Alison and her staff make sure that the food provided is not only filling but also nutritious.
How can you help your neighbor who may not have enough to eat? The best way would to remember to give routinely. Many supermarkets have collection boxes for local food pantry donations by the checkout lines. Perhaps, cut back on the amount of “extras” (sweets and treats) you buy weekly and use that money to buy healthier foods items for a pantry.Grab an extra jar of peanut butter, a loaf of whole wheat bread, package of mac & cheese, can of tuna and/or box of whole grain cereal, as you spin through the supermarket aisles for an easy drop off on your way out of the store.
Or, send a check to a local pantry (see below) to help them purchase fresh produce to add to these packaged options for those in need. This simple act may make the difference between a family having a meal on the table or going to bed hungry.
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Do you routinely give to a food pantry? How often and what do you give? Please share your thoughts below.