Feeding people isn’t always just about calories. To one Washington, D.C., food bank, at least, a calorie isn’t always a calorie, and some can do more harm than good. Starting September 1 of this year, the Capital Area Food Bank will no longer be accepting donated junk food. The move is all part of an effort to help provide the more than half-million people dependent on the Bank’s services with more than just a belly-full of empty calories, but to provide them with nutritious core foods.
Initially, food banks were designed to help citizens during an emergency. Unfortunately, due to the neoliberalization of the economy and the increasing wealth and income gap in the U.S., more and more people are now turning to food banks to stave off starvation.
Tragically, the food they often receive is not exactly all that healthy, and the overly-processed, sugar-rich items that are mostly available contribute to ongoing food-related health problems. It doesn’t take a nutritionist or an economist to predict that people relying on food banks for sustenance probably cannot afford the medical bills that generally come with diabetes and obesity.
Backed by research, the D.C. Capital Area Food Bank is making changes that might have reaching effects. By eliminating junk food from the Bank’s inventory and increasing their focus on procuring healthier, less processed and more complete foods, clients will be given the nutritious foundation for managing other, connected health problems.
Unfortunately, when it comes to community-led social services like food banks, recipients are often at the mercy of what is available.
According to Nancy Roman, the Capital Area Food Bank’s CEO, many retailers are on-board with the idea. She credits this surprising compliance with the notice the Bank was able to give beforehand, not to mention the science and health concerns that are informing the move.
With social services, donating retailers, and science on board, the future looks bright for the Capital Area Food Bank. Even more importantly, the positive effects on the health of so many marginalized families, many of whom struggle to provide whole meals for themselves and their growing children, are obvious.
Although these results will not be immediately apparent, and some might not see the results they expect from change in diet alone, it is a good start. Potential for this program to be mimicked and to grow to other parts of the country is endless, making the rejection of junk food from one food bank more than just an individual decision.