Our oldest daughter said Urban Ministry was one of her favorite places to volunteer. The more hands-on our volunteering projects are, the more our girls love it.
Urban Ministry's heart is for their local community. They (1) teach adults reading, writing and math, (2) provide food and clothing, (3) mentor youth, and (4) organize home repairs - particularly for women over age 55.
The four of us organized shelving for storing cans, packed a dozen food boxes, sorted hygiene items, and created snack packs for students.
After we got in the car, Stephanie & I made the observation that we personally don't eat any of the foods that we packed - canned soup, instant mashed potatoes, sugary drinks, and packaged cookies. Processed foods are generally cheaper than whole foods (real butter and milk, fresh produce and breads, etc.) so the poor tend to eat lower quality meals...which, in turn, can contribute to illness, obesity, and lower test scores for kids.
What do you think the solution is to closing the socioeconomic gap when it comes to food quality? (We'll be sharing our ideas soon).
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I saw an article once about providing those in need with garden starter kits - pots, seeds and soil. I know my husband and I have been saving a great deal this spring by growing much of our own produce. And gardening nurtures the heart as well!
We are looking forward to having a garden in the future. Hard to do when we move locations every week or two. :)
I couldn't agree more with the food quality in food shelters. I am so sad when I see what is offered there. When I donate food to a pantry, I try to donate dry goods (beans, oats, etc...) that have longevity but are still healthy. Also, whenever I have a garden, I plant one row for my local pantry and bring in the produce from that row all summer long, so they can come to depend on it, even though it's not much. However, if everybody that had a garden planted a row for their local pantry, just imagine!
We have been happy to see quite a few non-profits (especially ones with kitchens) with little gardens on the property.
Today, we planted squash and tomatos for the Salvation Army's Shelter in Fayetteville. :)
That is an excellent question! I'm sorry to say that I don't have an answer. I'm afraid if we donate extra money it will go towards more processed foods. I think the gardening idea is a good plan. I have always loved growing our food.
I so struggle with that. But if you give them the good stuff, with no preservatives and additives then they won't store as well. I wish it was easier to give healthier foods. The other problem with eating really healthy is that it does take a lot more time to prepare. You can't pull something off the shelf or out of the freezer. The welfare system makes eating healthy a challenge too- I haven't ever taken the time to figure it out but there are hoops to jump through when buying fresh fruits and veggies.
In our community they have program called plant an extra row. They hand out seeds (there is a can our our library) and ask that people plant an extra row of food in their garden and donate it to a local food bank. They also have a project where volunteers pick fruit from tree in people's yards that would otherwise rot on the tree. The food is donated and a small portion is offered to the volunteer pickers too.
Those are great ideas (both the extra row and the fruit trees)! Have you ever done either?
What part of the country is your community in?
I don't know how they do it, but I remember hearing that in our area there is someone who collects "old" produce from grocery stores and then delivers it in the poorer neighborhoods in our area. "South" town is the poorer section and there is a very large hispanic population here. Mostly orchard workers and fruit shed packers.
I agree though, that the foods donated I would mostly never buy for my own family. I've also heard that food pantries and the like usually prefer you to simply donate money because they can buy so much more than we can with the same amount of money through buying in bulk and matching grants and things. I just hope that they have an eye towards the nutritional value of the food too.