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Soup kitchen

Donate smarter this Thanksgiving and holiday season

Despite the fact that we produce more than enough food to feed the world, food insecurity is a serious societal issue. Even in a nation as wealthy and rich in resources as the United States, food insecurity is troublingly common, impacting more than 1 in 5 children and nearly 15% of all households. Food insecurity, which can be defined as limited or uncertain access to nutritionally adequate and safe foods, is a major stressor on the family. Lack of income, reliable transportation, and distance from grocery stores offering low-cost healthy foods can make it extremely difficult for some families to obtain a minimally adequate diet.

Food insecurity can be expressed in the form of social, emotional, behavioral, and physical health problems. It also results in feelings of alienation, powerlessness, guilt, and shame. Children in food-insecure households demonstrate lower levels of academic achievement and more behavioral and mental health problems.

Food insecurity is “a societal failure to make adequate food meaningfully accessible to all.” Though government programs have made great strides to reduce chronic under-nutrition in America, the programs do not provide a complete safety net. Many Americans are struggling to have enough to eat. With cuts to food stamps and 40% of food in the US ending up in landfills, it is critical that we all do our part in advocating for more social policies that prevent conditions of food insecurity. Social and policy reform takes time, but there is one thing you can definitely do right now to bring about change:

Donate.

But don’t just donate, donate smarter.

You probably know about how important it is to donate food to your local soup kitchen during the holiday season (and the rest of the year, as well!), but do you ever give much thought to what you’re donating? Do you ever give food you wouldn’t necessarily want to feed to your kids in large quantities? Do you often find yourself shopping in the canned goods aisle of your grocery store, buying cheap canned raviolis and packaged sugary granola bars, or similar sorts of items?

Foods given to charitable organizations tend to be low-quality, processed, energy-dense, and high in unhealthy fats and sugars. Compromises in the quality of food often lead to greater energy consumption of food as people try to feel full while saving money. Children from insecure households are much more likely to be overweight. Though you may be giving these children and their parents calories, the recipients of this food could become malnourished from lack of essential nutrients over time. This unfortunately results in various health and obesity problems for millions.

In promoting food security for all Americans (and for the world, as well!), responses to food insecurity should prioritize healthy diet rather than just having “enough” to eat. The next time you’re planning to donate, think healthy, and spread this message to your friends!

Featured image credit: “Members of the United States Navy serving hungry Americans at a soup kitchen in Red Bank, N.J., during a community service project.” by United States Navy. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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