What does it mean to lead with intercultural competency when engaging with communities?
What does it mean to develop a sourcing strategy with neighbor needs at the center?
What are the opportunities to integrate HER Nutrition Guidelines across the supply chain?
How can the power of data translation and visualization be leveraged to support this work?
These four questions were the focus of a recent Feeding America conference session where we were joined by nearly 500 food bank staff to discuss how best to meet the food needs and preferences of neighbors. As we aim to be neighbor-centered, there is a recognition that this work often begins with asking questions – of oneself, one’s organization, and one’s community. It involves a lot: exploring cultures, languages, partnerships, power and privilege dynamics, understanding-gaps, policy changes, nutrition rankings, health inequities, and both the opportunities and barriers within the supply chain. While challenging, the Feeding America network has committed to this work.
Today, Feeding America is pleased to announce the release of Edition 2 of the Nutrition in Food Banking Toolkit. It builds off Edition 1 which featured sections on Applying an Intercultural Competency Lens, the Role of Food Bank Nutrition Policies, and the Healthy Eating Research (HER) Nutrition Guidelines. This expanded edition provides capacity-building resources to support food banks’ abilities to improve access, selection, and consumption of nutritious, culturally inclusive foods with and within the communities they serve. Edition 2 Toolkit sections include:
“’If a problem exists in a community, so does the solution.’ This strikes me as the crux of our work with immigrant communities, and what we aspire to in our program design. Starting with relationship building and asking questions about people’s needs, assets, barriers, and fears—and then asking the same communities for their ideas, offerings, and desired solutions. Maybe the food bank has a role to play in the solution, and maybe not. We focus on doing with—not for— communities and do our best to avoid making assumptions.”
Maria Bowman, MPH, Blue Ridge Area Food Bank
“This network-informed resource takes a comprehensive approach to implementation, including providing detailed instructions for nutrition ranking in inventory management systems. Food banks choosing to adopt the HER Nutrition Guidelines can expect to be well supported through and beyond the utilization of this evolving Guide.”
Jeremy Arnold, Feeding America
“In study after study, food pantry clients have expressed a strong desire for nutritious food. There is evidence that measuring and communicating nutrition information across the charitable food system can make a difference in the foods both sourced and consumed.”
Marlene Schwartz, Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
“Increased access to nutritious food is a common goal, and can be achieved through strong, strategic donor partnerships, successfully executed operations, and planning for long term success.”
Liz Baldridge, Feeding America
“Strong donor relationships centered around nutrition help food banks consistently focus on health equity. Building a shared understanding of nutrition in partnership with food donors helps nutrition-focused values exist and thrive during times of both crisis and stability.”
Sarah Kinney, Partnership for a Healthier America
“How can food banks lean into nutrition and health if we aren’t able to responsibly define ‘nutritious’ and set goals for the distribution of nutritious food? That was the underlying question that drove the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank to develop Nourish, a cloud-based nutrient tracking system, together with our partners at James Madison University in Virginia. Now operational, the easy-to-use system drives food sourcing, goal setting and tracking, and downstream opportunities for nutrition education and behavior change at pantry and household levels. Integrated with inventory management and online agency ordering, Nourish is an enterprise-level solution for health and nutrition programs.”
Michael McKee, Blue Ridge Area Food Bank
“Our stoplight system called SWAP (Supporting Wellness at Pantries) is a suite of tools that can help food banks and pantries to put the new HER Nutrition Guidelines into action. SWAP can help increase the supply and demand for healthy food in the charitable food system.”
Katie Martin, PhD, Institute for Hunger Research & Solutions
“Language is an important part of culture and service provision. When HER set out to develop nutrition guidelines, the intent was to increase access to healthier foods and beverages in food banks and pantries for all people in the country. To support this aim and better meet staff and people served, expanding the language of materials is a small, yet important step.”
Megan Lott, MPH, Healthy Eating Research
Along with the publication of the Toolkit, Feeding America will continue to award millions of dollars in grants each year to food banks to support the local implementation of the Toolkit. We look forward to the progress that will take place in the months ahead, and to sharing new learnings and guidance through further refinements of Toolkit sections.
Special acknowledgement to those who provided input and review on Feeding America’s Edition 2 of the Nutrition in Food Banking Toolkit: Healthy Eating Research; CDC’s Nutrition and Obesity Policy Research and Evaluation Network; UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity; Connecticut Food Bank / Foodshare; Blue Ridge Area Food Bank; James Madison University; Partnership for a Healthier America; and Feeding America’s Data & Analytics, Supply Chain, and Health & Nutrition staff.
For more than a decade, Jessica Hager has been focused on social determinants of health, namely food security, and currently serves as director, healthcare partnerships and nutrition at Feeding America. Her work has centered on the development and execution of a national strategy aimed at improving food security and health equity through cross-sector partnerships, applied research, and charitable food system transformation. Hager is a proponent and lifelong student of working with communities to illuminate and interrupt systemic barriers hindering humanity’s progress to ensuring dignity and basic needs for all. She served as co-lead to the inaugural diversity, equity and inclusion planning team at Feeding America, laying a foundation for evaluation and systems-level change within the organization. She also serves on the board of directors at enfleshed, a national non-profit focused on the centering of marginalized experiences, conversations and communities. Currently a resident of Chicago with her wife and pup, Hager is from Texas where she was an active member of Austin’s non-profit sector. She holds a MA in Social Work from University of Chicago and BA in Communication Studies from Southwestern University.