Tables are a place where people come together. With that in mind, it seems the most important resource we can share as a community is the nourishment to bring more people to the table.
Written by Amy Hicks, Executive Director, United Way of Franklin County
We use the expressions “come to the table” or “have a seat at the table” when referring to something that brings people together to talk about important issues and concerns of community. The table is a place where conversations happen, relationships are built, and problems are solved. With that in mind, it seems that the most important resource we can share as a community is the nourishment to will bring more people to the table in the future.
Even in Franklin County, working families experience challenges keeping meals on the table as the cost of healthy food competes with other expenses like housing, childcare, medical expenses, transportation, and other priorities.
A few years ago at one such “come to the table” event, the topic of food insecurity was introduced as a threat in our community. Even in Franklin County, working families experience challenges keeping meals on the table as the cost of healthy food competes with other expenses like housing, childcare, medical expenses, transportation, and other priorities. As a result, children arrive at school hungry and unable to focus, and chronic health issues plague adults who opt for less expensive and processed foods over healthier and costlier alternatives in order to keep the family budget afloat.
At United Way of Franklin County, we are just finishing our Winter Food Drive, now in its sixth year, and collected about 5,000 pounds of food during the month of February, which is now being delivered to local food pantries that serve the communities of Franklin County. The food drive comes at a time when food supplies and donations tend to be at their lowest following the busy holiday season and before spring gardens begin to flourish and assist with food supplies.
The Winter Food Drive is conducted each year as an opportunity for local communities and businesses to connect with efforts to reduce poverty and hunger in our communities. Our hope, in addition to collecting food resources, is to increase awareness of the need in our communities to support our local food pantries. Donations of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and other healthy food items improve the quality of life in a meaningful way for people who count on the resources provided. In addition, toiletries and personal care items help pantries refill their shelves at a time when supplies are most needed.
Our goal is to elevate the concept of a food drive, so that not only are we pulling items from our cupboards, but we are being intentional about giving foods that will benefit people and increase good health. This year, NestFresh, a local egg producer, donated 100 boxes of hard boiled eggs to assist the drive. Many community pantries have large refrigeration units that can handle dairy, fresh produce, proteins, and other healthful items for distribution to families. Even when working with canned and boxed goods, items with lower sodium and sugar content can easily be found and donated. Foods that contain less additives and are closer to their natural state are healthier, in general, than foods that are mostly processed.
This year the need is especially critical as area food banks were strained by the effects of the federal government shutdown, as families receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) were given benefits early in preparation, and then had to cover a longer period of time between benefits. In addition, the network of Pennsylvania’s Food Banks, were asked to help cover the gap while also preparing for potential needs of furloughed federal employees and unpaid federal contractors.