National Hunger Awareness Month kicks off today, and rising grocery costs are adding to concerns about people losing access to enough food. An Iowa organization hopes the conversation doesn’t lose sight of the need to tackle “nutrition insecurity” as well.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has predicted that grocery prices for foods prepared at home would increase between 7% and 8% this year. Emmaly Renshaw, executive director of Feed Iowa First, said that puts more pressure on families who make too much to qualify for SNAP benefits, but also can’t easily afford healthy food. Despite their best efforts, Renshaw said, local pantries can’t always provide things such as fresh produce.
“A lot of the produce that comes into food pantries, it’s leftover from the grocery store – no one wanted it,” she said, “so it’s already at the end of the life.”
While the most urgent goal is getting food to struggling households, Renshaw said nutritious items enhance the overall effort. Her group grows fresh produce for nine food pantries in the Cedar Rapids area. They also deliver boxes of food to health clinics and apartment complexes in marginalized neighborhoods.
Renshaw said that direct form of outreach also reduces the transportation burden for those who can’t travel to a food shelf or supermarket. She said closing hunger gaps should involve more than sustaining a person’s life.
“And that means getting access to food that is healthy,” she said, “and that can promote health and promote vitality.”
This fall, the Biden administration will host a White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. It will be the first time for such an event since 1969. Officials have said key goals include ending disparities in hunger, nutrition and physical activity.