"Now think about solicitations from food pantries and food banks to help tackle hunger. A typical food drive highlights the need for packaged, nonperishable food items and often the lists of requested food items are of questionable nutritional value, such as mac and cheese, stew, and pancake mix and syrup. No wonder there is a disconnect between nutritional advice and health outcomes among food pantry clients. We can do better." (pp. 98-99).
Just before that, the author was writing about a much more relevant way to look at the grandmother thing: your grandmother may not be like mine! The ethnic appropriateness of food is a big deal when you are trying to provide nutritious foods that will really help people eat better. She wrote:
"I spoke with a registered dietitian who is working on a food is medicine program to provide medically tailored meals for people with chronic diseases. She said that she has been talking with her nutrition colleagues about the cultural appropriateness of the food they provide. For example, she said that most of her dietitian colleagues are White women, and they often promote items such as hummus, cottage cheese, and quinoa. Sure, these items are healthy, but they may not be familiar to people of color, let alone affordable or available. In fact, they may turn off the very people we are trying to serve. ...
"Susannah Morgan, the CEO of the Oregon Food Bank, describes how focusing on equity has changed their food bank in every way. It has changed the food that they buy. She explains that 'when people think about equity they think about interpersonal relations. But it’s about the way you see the world. Using an equity lens makes you slow down, see who is making decisions, what they might not know and who is not represented.' Their food-purchasing staff used to buy a lot of tomato sauce. But this reflects cooking habits primarily of people from Northern Europe. By thinking about cultures with different dietary habits, they decided to use the same dollars to purchase diced tomatoes, which can be used for pasta sauce but also tacos, curry, and many other dishes." (pp. 96-97).
Reinventing Food Banks and Pantries is a book of advice for the professionals and volunteers who run food banks and food pantries. It's very preachy -- the author has a set of ideas that she would like food charities to follow, and the main point of the book is to influence the way they view and run their programs.
The central idea of the book is that in an emergency situation, where people are unable to get food (like the beginning of the pandemic) it's necessary to provide food efficiently in any way possible. However, food insufficiency is a chronic problem, so she offers a number of suggestions to improve on just delivering food to the needy. She holds out hope that food banks and food pantries can help people overcome the poverty, poor nutrition, and overall social problems that underlie food insufficiency. I won't try to describe the entire approach and the many examples of food programs that have been more generally helpful than just offering boxes or bags of food.
|Our local food bank Food Gatherers: website here.|
While I'm very interested in the general problems of food insufficiency in the US, I'm not at all the target audience for this book. I read the newsletter and other material from the local organizations, and I believe that they have already implemented many of the suggestions in Martin's book. For example, our local Food Gatherers' website says that 60% of the food they distribute is protein and fresh produce. So even if I would be directly involved (instead of just making a contribution), I don't think this advice would be relevant to anything I would do.
Of all the book's ideas for improving food charity, I find the suggestion of trying to achieve cultural appropriateness to be most interesting. It also reminds me of a little bit of history, specifically, the field of social work emerged from the settlement house movement in the late 19th century, and one of their goals was to instruct poor immigrants in the "superior" ways of American cooking, as opposed to those of their native countries. "Cultural appropriateness" wasn't invented back then. But the goal of changing people's lives instead of just giving them handouts isn't new.
Book review © 2021 mae sander.