A food pantry’s efforts can help break the cycle in which circumstances can limit people to cheap calorie-dense but nutritionally deficient food choices that undermine long-term health, reduce employability or workplace productivity, and increase healthcare costs, keeping them trapped in a situation of poverty. These efforts can be undermined by clients’ lack of knowledge of how to use nutrient dense foods. While it is easy to be ecstatic about being able to offer clients a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that contain a plethora of different vitamins and minerals, it is easy to forget that not all clients know how to prepare these foods. When clients do not know how to prepare these foods or do not know what they are more likely to leave these donated fruits and vegetables on the shelves to rot. By educating clients, the pantry is empowering their clients the opportunity to improve their family’s health.
Educating clients on how to prepare items they are not familiar with does not have to be extensive. There are many simple things a pantry can do that will go a long way when it comes to helping clients improve their diet. The most effective way to get someone to take an item is to allow them to sample it first with the whole item next to it. The sample can be anywhere between serving a raw kohlrabi on a plate next to some ranch dressing to preparing different sweet potato dishes.
Not all fruits and vegetables that are grown meet the standards grocery stores have implemented on what is sold. For example, color variations of cauliflower can throw some clients off when deciding whether or not they would like to take some cauliflower home. Most of the cauliflower that is donated to Food for Others this past year have been orange or purple not the standard white. Placing an article on why the cauliflower is a different color than the typical standard will put clients at ease when deciding whether to take something home or not.
Food for Others officially began feeding the hungry from its Merrifield site in 1995. Today food supply, storage and distribution activities are made possible by a network of active volunteers, supporting churches and organizations, grocery stores, farms, gardens, farmers markets, and retail food contributor in addition to the receiving community centers, soup kitchens, and food pantries who together are dedicated to feeding the hungry of Northern Virginia. Nine staff members are employed full time to handle operations at our warehouse. All officers and directors are volunteers who work without compensation. Volunteers staff the office and are responsible for program administration and fund raising.
Food for Others provides free food to those in need throughout Northern Virginia. We distribute food in 4 ways, through our emergency warehouse distributions, through our 17 neighborhood sites across Northern Virginia that occur on weeknights, through our 14 community partners, and through our weekend food program for children at 29 Fairfax County Schools. Across all programs we serve an average of 1,800 families per week. Currently, we are focusing on providing healthier foods to our clients because we know that poor nutrition can have lasting detrimental effects on our community.