Food Banks Striving to Meet Neighbor Food Needs and Improve Health

by Hanna Selekman Senior Research Analyst

Co-Author: Eric Meredith, Intercultural Competency Consultant, Feeding America

This National Nutrition Month, Feeding America is pleased to feature the innovative work of Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana and Atlanta Community Food Bank as they seek to increase access to nutritious foods for their communities.

In the Indianapolis metropolitan area, there is a 16.8-year life expectancy gap between Fishers, an affluent suburb of Indianapolis, and the downtown areas. To address this health disparity, Gleaners Food Bank created a Food is Medicine program to help people who lack access to nutritious food and suffer from chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease. The Food is Medicine program is a partnership between Eskenazi Health, Gleaners Food Bank, and Anthem Foundation. Patients participating in Eskenazi Health’s Lifestyle Medicine programs – group education classes designed to help individuals manage and prevent chronic conditions – are screened for food insecurity. Those who screen positive are offered the opportunity to have medically tailored food boxes delivered right to their door via Gleaners’ Home Delivery program. Along with providing nutritious food, the program hopes to holistically support patients on their journey toward good health through nutrition and cooking education, camaraderie with other program participants, access to health professionals, and connections to additional resources like SNAP or housing assistance. During the 9-month grant period, over 1,900 boxes were delivered to 168 patient households. One participant stated, “It’s a great program as nutrition goes, I highly recommend it. When I was on the program, I saw blood pressure come down and weight loss.”

As quoted in their partner statement, “Atlanta Community Food Bank has a goal that all hungry people across metro Atlanta and north Georgia will have access to the nutritious meals they need when they need them.” To support neighbors with cooking skills, the Food Bank conducts classes, presentations, and demonstrations in their Learning Kitchen. All recipes meet the Feeding America Healthy Recipe Guidelines and American Heart Association Checkmark. Atlanta Community Food Bank developed a series of videos that showcase culturally inclusive recipes that use items from the Food Bank. The Food Bank’s Facebook page and Nutrition Resource Folder feature more than 30 videos on nutrition, healthy eating, cooking, shopping, knife skills, and family-friendly recipes. When neighbors are present at partner food pantries, volunteers can share a printed or digital recipe from the folder to highlight items available at the pantry that day.

Recognizing the connections between food insecurity and diet-related chronic diseases, it is important to highlight the work of Feeding America network members such as Atlanta Community Food Bank and Gleaners who are adding elements to their programs and community partnerships that exemplify nutrition best practices.

Thank you to the Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana and Atlanta Community Food Bank staff who helped to inform today’s piece.

Hanna Selekman, Senior Research Analyst, Feeding America has been working at Feeding America since 2019, first as a graduate intern while completing her Master’s in Social Work degree from the University of Chicago, and then transitioning into her current role as a Senior Research Analyst. She primarily works on the Feeding America Client Survey (FACS) and evaluation projects.

Eric Meredith, Intercultural Competency Consultant for Feeding America.  He currently serves as a Tribal Relations Specialist at a large government agency.  Prior to his current role, Eric was a community nutrition education program manager for the University of Illinois and the federal government