Over 83% of Food Distributed by Mid-South Food Bank Consists of High Nutritious Value
If you only had $1.40 to spend on a meal, would you buy 1 head of lettuce or 3 boxes of macaroni and cheese? For thousands of our Mid-South neighbors, that’s a daily and weekly choice. The average monthly SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often called food stamps) benefit per person in Tennessee is $132.20, which works out to roughly $4.41 per person per day, or $1.48 per meal. For a household, it's $271.50 (all of this was tallied before the recent $40 billion dollar cut to the program). When you are trying to feed a family on such a limited budget, fresh produce often simply doesn’t fit in.
But Mid-South Food Bank is working to expand access to fresh produce and other healthy foods to the nearly half a million Mid-Southerners in need. Although there is more cost involved, Mid-South Food Bank works to deliver healthy, nutritious food to the underserved. That includes efforts to provide the healthiest options possible, from lean protein to low-sodium canned foods and products without extra sugar and corn syrup. And as much fresh produce possible.
In the Mid-South, 21% of the population struggles with hunger and food insecurity. Food insecurity means that you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. Or, as Feeding America, the largest network of Food Banks across the country, says “unable to consistently access nutritious and adequate amounts of food necessary for a healthy life.” (The Mid South Food Bank is part of the Feeding America network). It might be the last days of your pay period and there is no money left or the last week before your next benefit check. It might mean you live in an area where transportation costs are high and there is no ready access to grocery stores. People in need make use of soup kitchens and food pantries supported by Mid-South Food Bank to fill the gap. Mid-South Food Bank serves 31 counties in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi through 277 partner agencies with 332 charitable feeding program. Mississippi and Arkansas rank as the top two states with the highest rates of food insecurity, so it is monumental task.
Most of the fresh produce is distributed through the Mobile Pantry Program. Every week, partner agencies throughout the service area set up events and the Food Bank brings truckloads of food to be distributed directly to households. A Mobile Pantry distributes as much as 50,000 pounds of food at each visit. The Kids Café program also benefits from available fresh produce. Kids Cafes around the area serve kids nutritious hot meals in a safe environment and volunteers teach important lessons about nutrition. Produce also makes its way to shelves of the shopping area that supply agencies like soup kitchens.
Hunger is a health issue.
Obesity is a marker for poor nutrition. It is not simply that people eat too much, but that the food they have access to is not nutritionally complete. If a head of lettuce costs $1 and a box of instant noodles cost 39 cents, that is often the choice that has to be made. Poor nutrition can also lead to increased rates of diabetes and other diseases. Kids who aren’t eating well have trouble concentrating and behaving in school, and that affects their overall achievement. For seniors, the choice is sometimes medicine, transportation to a doctor, or healthy food. And poor nutrition has an affect on the elderly too, making it more difficult to recover from illness or injury or to fight conditions like osteoporosis or heart disease. Incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables is not just about staving off hunger, it’s about building stronger bodies.