Stories about food banks tend to proliferate at this time of year. Donations pour in and people sign up to volunteer. It's good to remember, however, that food banks provide crucial support for families and individuals all year long. And increasingly, they are shifting to providing fresher, healthier fare for those who depend on them.
That's why I was so pleased to read today that Kaiser Permanente is announcing a grant to Southern California food banks through its new Healthy Food Banking program. This follows news last year that Kaiser Permanente is collaborating with the non-profit organization MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger to help food banks across the country reinvent themselves to support healthier, more nutritious offerings.
The Healthy Food Banking program seeks to ensure that food bank and pantry patrons can get healthy foods, and that low-income families are educated about the importance of a healthy diet. The program is an extension of Kaiser Permanente’s Healthy Eating Active Living program, which recognizes the need to support proper nutrition given the growing obesity epidemic in the United States.
And, it appears the demand for healthy food is likely to grow. The state’s food stamp program, CalFresh, has been affected by cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program. This has the potential to drive even more people in need to food banks.
As my colleague Robert Tinajero, community benefit manager for KP Southern California's HEAL program so eloquently put it: “There is a strong link between healthy food and a healthy mind and body. Providing our children and families in need with healthy food options is critical to their good health — and ultimately leads to healthier communities.”
Here's to a healthy and happy holiday season for all.