Recipe for a Healthy Food and Beverage Policy

by Elena Hollander Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties

Is your food bank creating or rethinking a food and beverage policy? We have a client-centric recipe that may work for you!

Preparation Time: 6-8 Months
Cook Time: 3 Years
Yield: Healthy & Happy Clients
Thoughtful & relevant rationale
Stakeholder buy-in
Leadership support
SMART comprehensive implementation plan

Evaluation Plan 

  1. Directions:
    Bake a thoughtful and relevant rationale informed by your clients and capabilities as well as evidence-based resources (we posted our resources at the end of our policy, see “Tips and Tricks” below). Some key points of your rationale might include the following:
    • client health and preferences are better served, which is crucial given that low-income populations tend to have higher rates of chronic diet-related diseases than higher-income populations
    • health may be part of your mission (if it’s not, can you change your mission?);?)
    • nutrition-focused food banking is a national trend
    • it’s an opportunity for leadership in your community and potentially the field of food banking.
  2. Whip up stakeholder buy-in. Start presenting your rationale to key champions and teams within the food bank as well as community partners. Incorporate their input, making sure to address stakeholder concerns and hopes. Mix in leadership support by continuing to present the policy and gather input all the way up the organizational chart in your food bank until you present the final rationale to your board for approval.
  3. Cook up a SMART comprehensive implementation plan (see Tips & Tricks for SMART definition) as soon as your policy is approved. If you can, address all food sources (donated, government, and purchased), all food types (all MyPlate categories and junk food), and clearly set up goals and regular communication with as many departments in your food bank as you will need to implement the policy (nutrition, food resources, sourcing, inventory, operations, volunteer services, etc.). Give yourself enough time. Our policy will take three years for full implementation!
  4. Blend in evaluation from the beginning so you can prove and showcase the effectiveness of your policy. We’re using client surveys measuring client health and satisfaction, inventory tables showing how the food items we distribute have changed, and a process evaluation to document how we changed our procedures and processes.

Tips and Tricks:

Elena Hollander is the Community Nutrition Senior Manager at Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Her role as Manager of the Nutrition Department has been to ensure the department meets the goals of making the food distributed to clients healthy, safe, and accessible in terms of teaching them how to prepare the food in easy and tasty ways. She is also working to implement their Healthy Food and Beverage Policy to help Second Harvest distribute the nutritious food that clients want and deserve to live healthy, active lives free from hunger. Elena received her MPH from Columbia University and her BA from the University of Pennsylvania. In her free time, Elena enjoys cooking, hiking, and dancing hip hop.