Arizona’s food banks and local farmers are teaming up
By Lisa Castrichini
When we think about helping alleviate the noble cause of hunger, most people probably think of a soup kitchen, or of cleaning out their cabinets in order to donate items to a local food bank. Or, they think about holidays like Thanksgiving, when many charities raise money for the less fortunate to have a holiday meal. But every month, 860,000 Arizonans don’t know where their next meal is coming from. For them, this is an everyday reality. Food is expensive—and healthy food is even more expensive. So how do the 860,000 Arizonans who need assistance get access to healthy foods?
A bill was proposed in the Arizona State Senate called Friends of the Farm, which will allow local food banks the funding to purchase from local farmers to distribute to their clients. Similar programs have been implemented in other states, such as Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio. By allowing food banks to buy locally, the bill also helps decrease a negative impact to our environment by limiting transportation, fuel, and packaging.
Not only is this a great program for local farmers, but it’s a win-win for the nearly one million Arizonans who face food insecurity. Those who are food insecure are more likely to have a chronic illness such as Type 2 diabetes or hypertension. Eating healthy is difficult enough for most Americans who are not food insecure.
One Arizona food bank knows that food can be medicine. HonorHealth Desert Mission Food Bank and its Fourth Street Market gives clients a full grocery cart of food, most of it fruits and veggies. To help encourage healthy eating, Desert Mission also has food demonstrations at the market. The recipes used for the demonstrations are healthy, delicious, and easy. In addition to food demonstrations, the food bank provides monthly cooking classes for the community.
The way we look at hunger in this country is changing. We can no longer just empty our cabinets with cans that have been there for who knows how long, donate them to a local food bank, and think we are doing justice to the underserved. Your health should not be determined by your income level.
The Friends of the Farm bill will help local food banks provide their clients with nutritious foods. Food is expensive, especially when you are living paycheck to paycheck. A program such as this can help those in our community who need and want healthy food options but don’t have the means to buy it.
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Lisa Castrichini is a Certified Health Education Specialist. She graduated from Arizona State University in 2017 with a degree in Nutrition, and works in Arizona’s Public Health system. When she’s not helping the underserved population, you can find her at an indoor cycling class.