Improving Nutrition in Iowa Fight Against Hunger/Public News Service

National Hunger Awareness Month kicks off today, and rising grocery prices add to concerns about losing access to enough food. An organization in Iowa hopes the conversation doesn’t lose sight of the need to address “nutrition insecurity” as well.

The US Department of Agriculture has predicted home-prepared food prices will rise 7-8% this year. Emmaly Renshaw, executive director of Feed Iowa First, said this puts more pressure on families who earn too much to qualify for SNAP benefits, but also cannot easily afford healthy foods. Despite their best efforts, Renshaw said, local food pantries cannot always supply items such as fresh produce.

“A lot of the produce that goes into pantries is leftover from the grocery store — nobody wanted it,” she said, “so it’s already end of life.”

While the more pressing goal is to provide food to struggling households, Renshaw said nutritious items bolster the overall effort. His group grows fresh produce for nine food pantries in the Cedar Rapids area. They also deliver boxes of food to health clinics and apartment complexes in marginalized neighborhoods.

Renshaw said the direct form of outreach also reduces the transport burden for those who cannot get to a shelf or supermarket. She said closing hunger gaps should involve more than sustaining a person’s life.

“And that means having access to foods that are healthy,” she said, “and that can promote health and support vitality.”

This fall, the Biden administration will host a White House conference on hunger, nutrition and health. It will be the first time such an event has been held since 1969. Officials said key goals include eliminating disparities in hunger, nutrition and physical activity.

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