Nutrition staff Tanya Sen and Leah Gable
Some staggering facts:
- Last year, nearly half a million people in Philadelphia turned to food pantries for help.
- At the same time, the overwhelming majority of them (70 percent) had household members with chronic disease, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and high cholesterol.
With numbers like these, we know it's no longer enough to provide food to hungry families. We must ensure that these families have nutritious food that improves their overall health, instead of just filling their bellies.
That's why last month, the Coalition Against Hunger opened a first-of-its kind food pantry in the city. Unlike most food pantries, this new program will provide only highly nutritious, quality foods to clients. We call the program our "Green Light Pantry.”
Here, we provide families with only foods that can be categorized as “Green Light Foods” under a system that ranks foods based on their Nutritional Facts labels and USDA Dietary Guidelines.
Families are also allowed to choose their own food. Among the selection: Whole-wheat pasta and cereals; low-fat milk and yogurt; fresh fruits and vegetables; and lean proteins, such as canned salmon, frozen chicken, fresh eggs, and beans with no salt added. Items that you might typically find at other food pantries—mac and cheese, for instance, or canned soups that are high in sodium—will not be carried.
Clients also attend nutrition classes every month and receive free health screenings and assistance in applying for SNAP (food stamps), school meals and other programs that can help their families afford to make healthier food choices.
Our first Green Light Pantry opened in the Kensington section of Northeast Philadelphia this spring, and we've already seen some results.
“The Green Light Pantry gives me access to healthy and fresh grown food—things that I wouldn’t think of buying myself,” says one pantry client, Nasheeda, who has a 1-year-old son. “I now have the opportunity to change my diet and have learned how to make healthier meals.”
We think it's a good start. Next up? A second Green Light Pantry in North Philadelphia, scheduled to open this fall.
Thank you, as always, for your support.
Produce can be hard to find in low-income areas.