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Food Banks: A boots on the ground effort

I have been with the USDA for a little over six months, and have had bouts of excitement and nervousness that come with learning the ins and outs of featured programs like Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other nutrition initiatives. It wasn’t until I sat down and researched the agency, that I understood the breadth of our program portfolio and their numerous benefits for millions of Americans. Fast forward a half year, and the complexities of becoming an effective hunger advocate are evident. Invited to attend the Tarrant Area Food Bank Partners Meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, my eyes opened to a much larger world.

The meeting started with some interesting Texas food banking history, and then moved toward the subject of donations. Currently, nutritious food donations are on a downward trend across the country. In response to this trend, efforts have focused on increasing shelf life of fresh produce with high priority on vegetables. Examples like using surplus vegetables to produce tomato sauce or salsa are some of the innovative ways aiding these efforts. Keeping the production of these foods “in house” also saves food banks money to be used for other more expensive items.

The creativity of those in the meeting was astounding, and the methods employed by food bank personnel to stretch their budgets left me at a loss for words. One example was how the Houston Food Bank solved a shortage on peanut butter. Since peanut butter is a healthy, high protein food with a long shelf life, it is a much needed commodity and highly requested item. By creating a partnership with a local church that owns a peanut butter cannery, the food bank was granted access to produce fresh peanut butter once a month. Only having to supply ingredients and containers, the need for a cost efficient way to get peanut butter was solved. One day of work at the cannery brings the food bank 12 to 13 pallets a month, normally costing thousands of dollars.

It is revolutionary ideas and partnership building practices like this that gets the job done.

I never realized how creative food banks must be to problem solve and stretch dollars. Attending the meeting gave me an intense appreciation for the supreme effort the employees and partners put into making sure people don’t go hungry. Thank you for all that you do!

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Jim Macphearson, Tarrant Area Food Bank Food Industry Liaison, kicks off a partnership meeting with some Texas food banking trivia. Jim Macphearson, Tarrant Area Food Bank Food Industry Liaison, kicks off a partnership meeting with some Texas food banking trivia.

Jim Macphearson, Tarrant Area Food Bank Food Industry Liaison, kicks off a partnership meeting with some Texas food banking trivia.

Employees, volunteers and partners met at the Tarrant Area Food Bank in Fort Worth, Texas, to discuss and plan effective ways of ending hunger in Texas.

Employees, volunteers and partners met at the Tarrant Area Food Bank in Fort Worth, Texas, to discuss and plan effective ways of ending hunger in Texas.

3 Responses to “Food Banks: A boots on the ground effort”

  1. Adrian says:

    Hi !
    It is great to volunteer, to give a helping hand. But ! Here, as I just see in the picture, many of the volunteers are OBESE. Talking about feeding efforts and peanut butter…, I’ll suggest also to include in your program “becoming an example to others towards a healthy nutrition”, knowing how and when to say stop to food intake. Hunger is a problem, overweight = overeating is a BIGGER problem, useless resource consumption while creating public health problems = higher resources expenditure, higher carbon dioxide foot print.

  2. Katie says:

    I love the peanut butter solution!

    And there’s more stories like this one. In Amarillo, Texas, there’s a terrific partnership between staff at Texas AgriLife and the local USDA lab and the High Plains Food Bank to get fresh produce on people’s tables. Local volunteers help with the harvest, so it really is a community effort:
    http://amarillo.com/news/local-news/2010-11-01/residents-reap-benefits

  3. Amy says:

    Adrian,

    You clearly are miunderstood. The people in the picture are not volunteers, they are industry representatives i.e. donors. You are correct hunger is a problem but overweight is not just about overeating. In the case of someone who suffers from chronic hunger, being obese is contributed to limited access to healthy foods. Living in a food desert and having to shop at a convenience store or a bodega. You should really be better informed before you make half-cocked comments.

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