My foodie dreams came true! I met Mario Batali. I am a huge fan of this celebrity chef. I spend many Sundays in the kitchen trying to re-create dishes he prepares on his daily talk show, ABC’S The Chew.
He was touring the country, promoting his new book, American Farm to Table. I jumped at the chance, along with 400 of my closest friends, to have dinner and hear him speak.
In this evening, I found unexpected inspiration. I was anticipating walking away with tips on how to really nail pasta. Instead, I became aware of a societal issue I had been unfamiliar with – food insecurity.
Food insecurity is the anxiety of food sufficiency, or shortage of food, in the house. Those who are food insecure may have access to food, but may be uncertain how often they have access to adequate food, or reduced access to quality nutrition. Behaviors of the food insecure include:
- Not being able to afford a balanced meal
- Skipping a meal
- Cutting the size of a meal so that it lasts longer or another family member may have a more adequate serving
- Not eating for an entire day, worrying that the food you purchased will run out
Food insecurity differs from hunger in that those with food insecurity are eating, but may not be able to consistently eat in a way that allows them to thrive. This lack of consistent nutrition can impact their performance at work or school. They are less able to concentrate or retain information, have less energy for physical labor and may be more likely to respond impulsively.
Mario encouraged the 400 foodies in the room to make donations to food banks and volunteer. He also asked us to consider how our routine behaviors might inhibit us from having an even greater impact on this societal issue. Below are actions I came up with to make more out of my next food drive. Maybe some of them will inspire you, too.
- Stop wasting food. Make a grocery list and evaluate what will actually be eaten. Many ingredients go bad before use, or leftovers aren’t properly saved, resulting in weekly waste. Trim the shopping list and save the additional money for a monetary donation to a food bank.
- Stop fad dieting. Many diets encourage getting rid of the food that isn’t in compliance. Setting a realistic, as opposed to immediate, start date allows for time to consume or donate “off-limits” food.
- Make food donations count. Food drive stables like macaroni and cheese, jelly, ramen noodles and boxed cereals all have long shelf lives and are inexpensive. However, they are also all relatively low in nutritional value. When making a shopping trip for donations, choose more nutritious items like canned tuna, jars of applesauce, dried beans, almond milk, whole-wheat pasta, etc.
- Find a volunteer opportunity. Preparing or serving meals, operating a mobile food pantry or organizing a food drive are all ways to help out. Contact your local United Way to learn more about opportunities to volunteer in your community.
Kate N., MS, CEAP, joined Empathia in 2005 as an EAP Counselor, then became a Performance Specialist in 2012. Kate has a master’s degree in Educational Psychology and is devoted to helping individuals determine how to make lasting changes. Prior to joining Empathia, she worked in the social work field as a case manager for Child Protective Services. Kate enjoys baking, yoga and escaping into the wood of Northern Wisconsin.