Capital Area Food Bank in the Washington, D.C., recently decided to stop accepting candy, soda, and sheet cakes. The food bank’s CEO, Nancy Roman, said that they have “a moral obligation that it be good food that’s not aggravating their (health) problems.”
Most of these unhealthy donations don’t come from individual donors or food drive participants, but from donations made by retail grocery stores. Many of the unhealthiest donations come after a holiday, which is when stores are getting rid of holiday themed candy and cakes.
Capital Area Food Bank is only one of several in the past few years to begin rejecting junk food. Food banks in places like California and Ottawa have also stopped. It can be tempting to think that any donation is better than nothing at all, but giving unhealthy foods to food banks can actually cause more harm than good. Excessive consumption of candy, cakes, and salty foods can lead to a variety of health problems.
The bigger problem
Addressing the quality of foods given to food banks makes us consider the more systemic issues of hunger. Food banks do not exist to serve as a way to reduce food waste, but to address hunger in the communities they serve. Families and individuals that use food banks need to be able to find high quality, nutritious foods. When wellness is the goal, food banks can be seen as an outlet for people to obtain the nutritious food that they might not otherwise be able to.
Feeding America, a hunger relief organization, conducted a study about food banks and disease. They found that having access to healthy foods can help low-income individuals with diabetes better manage the disease. Food banks can become a helpful place to find support for people who struggle with diet related health problems and can’t afford to buy nutritious foods.
What can you do to help?
First, see if your local food bank has a list of most needed items. Many food banks provide this in order to help donors have the biggest impact.
Second, check out our Take Action page to learn how you can join our fight to end hunger.