Lindsay Watts, RD
Holidays are a time of decadence filled with food, celebrations, and time spent with family and friends. In the midst of all the tradition, though, it is also a great time to reflect on how we can give back to others throughout the year. This year, I am focusing on ways to not only share what I have, but also to improve the health of others, particularly when it comes to food. We all know food is a necessity of life, yet in the United States 1 in 8 people struggle with hunger.1 In 2015, 43.1 million people (13.5 percent) were in poverty and 42.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children.”1 These statistics are a stark contrast to my life where I have too much choice and often, too much food. Sound familiar? Here are some ways you can focus on giving back this year to help:
Focus on Food Quality
Cleaning out your cupboard for a food drive? When you think of nonperishable food donations, think of nutrient quality, not just quantity. Nutrition and health is just as important if not more important for those who struggle with food insecurities. According to Feeding America “Currently, more than half (58%) of the households served by the Feeding America network of food banks have at least one member living with high blood pressure, and more than one-third (33%) has a member with diabetes.” Be thoughtful with your next donation by adding these items to your bag:
• Whole Grains: Include whole grain pastas, brown rice, whole wheat breads, and whole grain cereals like oatmeal over refined grains.
• Fruits and Veggies: If your local food bank accepts fresh and frozen items, be sure to include them on your next shopping list. Also provide canned fruits and vegetables, juices, and dried fruits in your donation.
• Shelf Stable Solutions: Cold storage at food banks can sometimes be limited or hard to come by at all. Look for nutritious, shelf-stable items like canned chicken and fish, dried beans, nuts and nut butters, and low fat shelf-stable milk. Including these items will help food bank clients get important nutrients they need without worrying about spoilage.
When I started at Campbell, I felt inspired by the Just Peachy Salsa program we run that takes imperfect, unwanted peaches, turns them into jarred salsa, sells it, and gives proceeds to the Southern New Jersey Food Bank. How great is it to take something that would otherwise sit in a landfill, repurpose it, and give back to your local community? I am making an effort to replicate this in my own household by cutting back on food waste and using the money I’ve saved to give back to my community. A couple tricks that work for me include:
• Freeze it: With just my husband and me at home, we were throwing away a lot of food. I started freezing half of our casseroles, soups, and one pot meals into individual portions to help out when I was too busy to cook. This holiday, freeze leftovers to use in future recipes or to heat up when you’re in a pinch, just keep good food safety practices in mind.
• Plan It Out: Plan your meals each week, and do your best to stick to it. Not only is this good for your waistline, but it is also good for your budget. When you plan your meals, you can buy only what you need and avoid overspending at the store.
Keep the Momentum
Food and hunger have really become a passion of mine over the last few years. Sometimes, though, it feels a little overwhelming to think of how big of an issue it is in our society. I stay inspired by focusing on the small differences I make by helping out where I can. I am fortunate to work for a company like Campbell that makes it easy to do this. A couple of my favorite ways to contribute include:
• Volunteering: I like to volunteer, and Campbell makes it convenient for me to make time for causes I care about. Because of our emphasis on volunteering, I get involved with programs like Cooking Matters, where we work with the local food bank to provide nutrition education and cooking skills to kids in our community. If your employer doesn’t have a volunteer program in place, start small with organizing a couple of events. Check out our Make a Difference Week from last April for inspiration.
• E-giving and Paycheck deductions—I never carry cash anymore and have checks on me even less frequently. I love that donating through paycheck deductions and e-giving campaigns makes it convenient to contribute.
• Buy Products that Matter: Sometimes I am really strapped for time, but I still want to help. One way to help is to purchase products that benefit others. Companies like The Soulfull Project and Plum Organics through its The Full Effect ® program make it easy to pick up products on your regular shopping trip and benefit local food banks with donations of nutritious foods.
December is a great time to focus on what we can give back to our communities, not just during the holidays, but year round. This year, give to help improve the health of others. Keep your momentum beyond the holidays by getting involved with programs that make it easier to give back and surround yourself with people that value volunteerism. For more information (and inspiration) about Campbell’s volunteering and community programs, visit our Shared Communities page. Do what you can to help reduce food insecurities – every dollar and donation counts and YOU CAN make a difference!
Lindsay is a nutrition communications analyst at the Campbell Soup Company where she coordinates health professional and consumer communications. She also works with internal and external partners on retail health and wellness programs. Prior to her role at Campbell, Lindsay worked as an in-store retail dietitian. She received her Bachelors of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from West Chester University and completed her dietetic internship with Pennsylvania State University.
- Feeding America. http://www.feedingamerica.org/