The recent workshop on healthy food pantries that Partners in Health and Wholeness presented with the Partnership for Community Care was a huge success. The food was delicious, and the presentation was informative, but for me the most meaningful portion of the event was the conversation. The room was full of diverse participants, ranging from nonprofit workers, pastors, volunteers, to interested individuals, some of whom rely on food pantries for their own sustenance. Some wanted to discover new resources to enhance the healthy food offerings of their already existing food pantries, while others want to start a food pantry for the first time. While some of the specifics differed, everyone in the room was concerned with battling food insecurity, and doing their part to make sure that everyone has access to the healthy food they need.
All the participants had a chance to introduce themselves and their organization and respond to the presentation with questions or comments. Through this interactive time, we had the unique opportunity to talk about the work we have to do, how we can help and support one another, and also how our faith spurs us on — how the work we do is not just something we have to do or that we do halfheartedly, but it is something done out of a deeper conviction of whom God is calling us to be and how God is calling us to move. How do we follow this call in a way that honors God’s desire for health and wholeness for all? How do we follow this call in a way that honors and respects those who will be receiving food that we donate? How do we give, and encourage our communities to give, as if we are giving unto Christ?
We learned together that we need to address food safety, confusion about expiration dates, health education (providing recipes and cooking tips), and the many ways we could all support each other. We also learned simple substitutions to keep in mind that are healthier options, especially beneficial for food pantry clients with chronic disease. Some of those include donating canned foods without added sugars or salt, and brown rice instead of white.
One of the most consistent messages we received in feedback regarding the event was that we wanted to find more ways for collaboration and continuing conversation. So, while we continue to plan and coordinate future events, let’s continue the conversation here. It has now been a few weeks since we all gathered. If you attended the event, have any new needs come up? Have any thoughts, changes, or new partnerships been established that you want to share? In what ways do you want to continue to work together with others in the community? If you were not able to attend, feel free to share what you are working on, support or collaboration that might benefit you, or any insight you may have related to healthy options at food pantries.
Through advocacy, collaboration, conversation, and conviction that healthy food is essential for each and every person, I believe we can make a difference in our communities.
–Shannon Axtell Martin, PHW Regional Consultant
Partners in Health and Wholeness is an initiative of the North Carolina Council of Churches. PHW aims to connect health as a faith issue. Please visit our website to sign your personal pledge to be healthier, and to find out about grant opportunities for places of worship in NC.