Healthy foods are a necessity for food insecure families

Healthy foods are a necessity for food insecure families

April 7, 2020 in Harvest Time Newsletter

For many years, Kirsten has had difficulties providing healthy, nourishing food for her growing children. She’s dealt with homelessness, couch-surfing, and hunger. Several months ago, when she had nowhere else to turn, Kirsten and her kids started living in the emergency shelter at Nevada Community Outreach Center.

“I’ve really been blessed to have this all available. That I was able to stay in the shelter and volunteer here and have food when my family needs it,” she shared.

Kirsten has Type 2 diabetes, so eating nutritious food is extremely important to her health. Before she had consistent access to fresh vegetables, lean meats and whole grains, she struggled to keep her blood sugar under control. Having access to nutritious foods helps her maintain a healthier lifestyle.

For the food-insecure community, keeping healthy food in the house can be a challenge. Meat, fresh vegetables and fruit aren’t always in the budget for individuals who barely have enough money left for groceries after their bills are paid. They tend to rely on processed foods—which are foods that have been taken apart and put back together using a combination of sugar, salt, oil and other additives. These are often cheaper and much more convenient to prepare for people who have limited access to a stove or oven. Unfortunately, they are typically not as healthy.

Health and hunger go hand in hand. According to the American Journal of Medicine, nearly 1 in 3 adults with a chronic disease has problems paying for food, medicine or both.

“People tend to eat what’s cheap. Processed foods can cause a lot of health issues,” said Sarah Riley, assistant director at Nevada Community Outreach Center.

Several years ago, the center started placing a greater emphasis on healthy eating. Staff and volunteers began serving more vegetables and fruits with meals in the soup kitchen and encouraging food pantry shoppers to pick up healthy items. And, thanks to Healthy Nevada—an organization committed to improving health in the community—the center started a garden that’s right next door.

“They get so excited about the garden and getting fresh produce. They can’t wait to enjoy all of the veggies that we have in the spring and summer months,” said Sarah.

Eating healthy foods can help reduce the risk of diabetes, hypertension, cancer and heart disease. Kirsten is grateful for all that the food pantry and soup kitchen provide for her family.

“I’ve eaten out of trash cans, I’ve had people hand me leftovers after they’ve left restaurants.

I understand what it’s like to be homeless and not have anything to eat,” she shared. “The pantry helps provide nutritious, healthy food for me and my children, and that takes a lot of my stress away.”

Most of the food Nevada Community Outreach serves comes from Ozarks Food Harvest. The Food Bank delivers a variety of fresh, nutritious foods for the soup kitchen and pantry each month.

“If we didn’t have Ozarks Food Harvest, we would not have nearly as much food for everyone,” said Sarah. “We serve about 400 families a month, and we want to give them as much as they need.”

Thanks to places like Nevada Community Outeach Center, food-insecure families can rely less on processed foods and more on nutritious ones to fill their stomachs. At Ozarks Food Harvest, we believe food should do more than just curb hunger—it should also nourish, strengthen and heal the body. Thank you for supporting us as we distribute healthy foods to those people who need them the most.