BY GWEN FRISBIE-FULTON
We all know becoming a parent changes everything. It changes the pace of the world around us; it changes what we feel is important. We change ourselves, as well. We learn to value the small things and simple milestones: first steps, first words, first days of school. We learn to value weekends. We learn to value sleep. We learn to value food.
As parents, we learn that the meals we serve our children are the embodiment of our everyday love for them. We make sure their breakfasts are packed with protein, their packed lunches include fresh fruit, and their dinners represent all the food groups, colors and textures. We also make sure they drink their milk.
Parents want to make the best choices for their children and know that what they feed them will help determine their development, and thus their future. We know that not all parents in Northwest North Carolina can afford to do the same.
In fact, 1 in 4 children across the 18 counties that Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina serves is food-insecure, meaning that their families lack reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. This is why for 35 years Second Harvest and its partner network have been helping get food to dinner tables from Boone to Burlington and everywhere in-between.
However, food insecurity is not simply about the lack of food. It is also frequently about the lack of quality, wholesome and nutritious food.
As working families try to cover basic needs, such as housing, healthcare, utilities, transportation and childcare, they increasingly find that less and less of their income can be used to purchase food. According to the Brookings Institution, low-income families are spending more than 80% of their income to cover their most basic needs—a dramatic rise from 30 years ago. To provide enough meals, these families are often left with no choice but to choose quantity over nutritional concerns. The consequences of this are evident in higher rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease among food-insecure families.
Just as you do with your family, Second Harvest’s goal is to provide more than just calories. Second Harvest is encouraging the community to donate healthy food and continues to focus on providing greater access to fresh, nutritionally dense foods for community members in need. Additionally, the nonprofit offers cooking classes, food tastings, recipes, grocery store tours and helps food- insecure families access nutrition programs that can help families stretch tight budgets to incorporate as many healthy meals as possible.
Food—healthy food—is essential to children’s growth and development. Teachers tell us and studies show us that what our children eat impacts their grades, attendance, behavior and success in school. In other words, every bite of food a child eats—or doesn’t eat—helps to determine their future.
Every parent reading this wants to be able to feed and care for their children well—some of us can and do, and some of us cannot always do so. But something else that parenting teaches us is about the value of giving and caring for one another—and perhaps this is why there are so many parents who give to, volunteer and work at Second Harvest. We know that providing the most basic head start in terms of proper nutrition to our children should be put within reach of all of us.