According to a 2010 study published in the journal ‘Psychological Science,’ the cost of healthy food, including fruits and vegetables, has increased almost 200 percent since 1983. The cost of unhealthy foods, on the other hand,has increased at a much slower rate. The issue is challenging food banks across the nation to examine their sources of food and donor dollars to look for economical ways to increase the nutritional value of the food thatis made available to clients. Statistically, lower income groups have higher rates of obesity. And a startling 27 percent of Oregon Food Bank emergency food box recipients reported in 2010 that at least one member of theirhousehold has diabetes. This, of course, can be tied directly to diet and available food choices.“If you have $3 to feed yourself, your choices gravitate toward foods which give you the mostcalories per dollar,” says Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center of Public Health and Nutrition at the University of Washington.
“Not only are the empty calories cheaper, but the healthy foods are becoming more and more expensive. Freshvegetables and fruits are rapidly becoming luxury goods.”
The cost of food also becomes an issue for people in more isolated rural areas – or food deserts – where grocery stores are few and far between. A 2010 nationwide “Map the Meal Gap” study conducted by Feeding America identified two Oregon counties – Wheeler and Crook – as counties with the highest average cost of a meal in the nation. Clients in isolated, rural areas often share how they shy away from purchasing fruits and vegetables in favor of food with a longer shelf life because the closest grocery store may be more than 30 miles away. In response to this, Oregon Food Bank is putting strategies and programs in place to bring healthier food to more people – a trend that is echoed by food banks across the nation. These include our Learning Garden andNutrition Education Cooking Matters™ classes, community food security outreach like our FEAST (Food, Education, Agriculture, Solutions, Together) events, and an emphasis on securing more perishable food, like fruits and vegetables. “We’re doing everything we can to become experts with the distribution of perishables,” saysMike Moran, OFB’s food resource development manager. “Thanks to more partnerships with the agricultural community, retailers through our Fresh Alliance program and expanded storage capacity, OFB procured and distributed 57 percent more fresh produce to communitiesthroughout Oregon this year. And we want to increase that year-over-year – it’s our most aggressive growth goal.”
OFB donors are also helping to make nutritious food more available to those who need it. Part of a $50,000 grant from Bank of America was used to purchase three truckloads of fresh produce. The remainder allowed us to purchase healthier food that was more expensive to supplement our donated food supply.
Everyone – regardless of income level –deserves the right to eat a nutritious meal. And with resourceful, strategic thinking by our partners, donors and staff, Oregon Food Bank is working hard to ensure clients have access to food that will nourish their body, as well as their future.
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Corporate Relations Developer