Food Banks That Churches Count On Are Challenged By Rising Demand, Spoilage Issues

Harris , E-mail the writer From the loading dock of the cavernous Capital Area Food Bank, Bishop Godfrey Nwaneri and members of the Divine Grace Mission loaded several carts of frozen meat and fresh vegetables that they would take back to the church and offer to those in need of food. Once at the church, Nwaneri said he would make sure that the meat and vegetables were distributed quickly after all, such precious food shouldnt go to waste. Video Bishop Godfrey Nwaneri of Divine Grace Mission discusses what it’s like to work closely with a food bank to feed those in need. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post) – Gerri Magruder, executive director of Helping Hands Ministry at the First Baptist Church of Capitol Heights, is pictured at the Capitol Area Food Bank. We try to shop very close to the distribution day so the perishables would not spoil, said Nwaneri, who hands out food on the first Saturday of every month. The Maryland pastor is part of a network of more than 500partner agencies that distribute 45 million pounds of food to more than 500,000 people across the Washington area each year. And although the distribution includes bread, cereal and canned goods, there is increasing focus among church food banks to supply fresh vegetables and meat for the good health of those in need. Fresh food thats the key to lowering high blood pressure and diabetes, said Jeri Bailey, director of the food pantry at the Dupont Park Seventh-Day Adventist Church, who was at the food bank the same day as Nwaneri. We prepare bags for 130families a week that includes a meat, fresh greens, canned goods and other items, Bailey said. But the distribution of fresh food means extra attention must be paid to ensuring that the donated perishables dont spoil. Nearly 36 million tons of food were wasted nationally in 2011, said Nancy Roman, president of the Capital Area Food Bank.

First Person: Don’t Equate Struggling on Food Stamps with Mooching

I’m really excited we are on our way to self-sufficiency. I’ve taken the class offered by the Job Council about those who become dependent on food stamps, and I’ve learned ways to help us feel OK about spending cash on food. It’s all part of breaking free and becoming independent, and I couldn’t be prouder at how well we are doing. I have yet to receive the letter stating how much we will be getting, but our assistance will definitely be less than the $340 per month we had been receiving while Jon was out of work. Have you noticed food prices lately? I mean, really noticed? Healthy food is outrageously expensive now. It costs nearly four times the amount to fix a healthy dinner for my small family of three than it does to buy a pizza. So, even though it isn’t as healthy, we normally go with the pizza. Good thing it’s our toddler’s favorite thing to eat. We also live on macaroni and cheese, sandwiches and spaghetti. Oh, and don’t forget the canned veggies. Every now and then we will have a treat like homemade enchiladas. But those are expensive and, therefore, rare.

Is our food and environment safe during a shutdown?

Some branches of the government provides services that we dont notice everyday, but we feel better knowing they are there. All active duty military are to remain on the job. Obama and the House, plus the Senate signed a bill that would ensure our military workers will get paid during the shutdown. While the military members who are in an active status get paid, the government shutdown leaves us wondering about safety measures in the civilian sector of our nation. Safety of our food and products is a large concern. Unfortunately, one of the vital services to help protect our food has been shutdown. The Food and Drug Administration has been closed. What does this mean? Our food, especially the food that has crossed state lines, does not get inspected for bacteria that may cause E-coli and salmonella poisoning. The FDA inspectors have been furloughed through the week of the shutdown. If the government doesnt raise the debt ceiling by the time given as a deadline, the FDA will remain closed. This can be problematic due to the lack of inspections of our food and because of the lack of import inspections. The FDA isnt the only aspect of the food safety checks that are closed. The safety inspectors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are closed as well. Because of the shutdown, our fruits, vegetables, seafood and other products are not being checked for safety assurance.

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