UTICA, N.Y. — Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County (CCE Oneida), the lead county of North Country Eat Smart New York (ESNY), is heading up an initiative called “Nourish Your Neighbor.” This initiative aims to help organize food drives for food pantries, backpack programs, and other food collection programs and promotes healthy food donations that follow MyPlate and the Dietary Guideline recommendations in order to increase access to healthy food options for low-income youth, families, and individuals.
The target population for ESNY programming is known to have food insecurity issues and many utilize food pantries. Food pantries receive donations from local schools, businesses, and organizations on a regular basis in the form of mostly shelf-stable items. In many cases those donating do not always consider the nutritional value of the food. Many people in need of food assistance simultaneously struggle with conditions associated with overeating as a result of being overfed, yet undernourished. Highly processed convenience foods, like those frequently found in emergency food boxes, are often loaded with calories and stripped of nutrients. Encouraging the public to donate foods of greater nutritional value can help improve access to and consumption of high quality foods for those in need.
In addition to encouraging others to host a healthy food drive, CCE Oneida recently completed their own Nourish Your Neighbor (NYN) drive to benefit the Thea Bowman Food Pantry. Using the NYN marketing materials developed through ESNY, they were able to nearly double their healthy food donations compared to past food drives. This latest food drive collected 62 pounds of food and reported that 60%-70% of it was from healthy items.
CCE Oneida helps food pantries check the quality of their items by conducting a walkability checklist and healthy food pantry assessment. ESNY Nutrition Educator Kayla Slater recently conducted such an assessment at the Thea Bowman Pantry. Upon completion, Kayla met with the coordinator to discuss the results and create an action plan. The assessment will be repeated in a few months to see if these items have made a noticeable impact. If your organization is hosting a food drive, consider partnering with North Country ESNY to make it a healthy drive through Nourish Your Neighbor. For more information contact April Lynne Bennett at 315-788-8450 or email@example.com.
–Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County
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