Nutrition Month Reminds Us What Eating “Well” Truly Means
Nutrition plays active role in supporting the community
March is National Nutrition Month — a campaign aimed at raising awareness of the importance of making informed choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. It highlights the value of adopting eating and physical activity plans focused on consuming fewer calories and getting daily exercise in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease and promote overall health.
Hunger is not just about lack of food. It’s also about lack of nutritious food. That’s why, at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, we are dedicated to providing our neighbors in need with the healthiest foods possible. Every year, our farm in Hadley provides 100,000 pounds of fresh, chemical-free produce for us to distribute to our member agencies (including pantries, meal sites and shelters). We also work closely with many local farmers, who generously donated more than 266,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables in 2014. In the past year, our Mobile Food Bank has provided hundreds of thousands of pounds of produce directly to families in areas when they may not otherwise have access.
Also playing a vital role in our efforts to lead the community to end hunger is our Nutrition Department. Each week, our staff of dieticians and volunteers are in the community conducting consultations at food pantries, meal sites, and Brown Bag: Food for Elders programs. They provide our agencies (and their clients) with numerous resources, including basic nutrition tips, meal planning suggestions, healthy cooking demonstrations, and recipes prepared with food pantry ingredients incorporating more whole grains, lean proteins and vegetables.
Currently, an estimated 50 million people across The United States are food insecure (they don’t know where their next meal is coming from). Right here in Western Massachusetts, there are more than 200,000 people that rely on the local emergency food network (made up of shelters, meal sites and pantries) to help put a meal on the table.
The lack of nutritious foods can have long-term damaging effects on the health and vitality of our community. Without access to critical items such as lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, areas with high rates of food insecurity are also seeing increased rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, premature death, and other health problems. In children, lack of nutritious foods can lead to impaired cognitive and brain development, lowered immune response, short stature and obesity. Similarly, studies have also shown that malnourished elders experience two to twenty times more complications with hospitalization, and have up to 100% longer hospital stays.
Join us to honor National Nutrition Month. The Food Bank and Hilltown Families are holding a very special Family Volunteer Day at our Hatfield facility on Saturday, March 21. In addition to learning about hunger in our region and helping to prepare food for distribution, the event will also focus on healthy eating habits by providing a fun cooking demonstration. Click here to learn more about this event and how your family can participate.
For tips on eating healthier, facts about nutrition, recipes for healthy meals, and other nutrition-related information,visit The Food Bank on Facebook through the month of March so you can make the most informed decisions.
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.