The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Local Business

November 12, 2012

Making ends meat

Local food banks help those balancing a tight budget and nutrition

ANDERSON, Ind. — A tight budget sometimes means bypassing more expensive foods like whole grains, low-fat dairy and fruits and vegetables.

According to a Gallup poll of 180,000 adults, conducted in August, nearly one in five Americans has had trouble affording food this year, nonetheless nutritional foods.

“When folks are looking at a limited amount of (financial) resources, they have to make tough decisions at the supermarket to stretch their dollar,” said Tim Kean, president and CEO of Second Harvest, which distributes to food pantries throughout central Indiana.

That sometimes results in people leaving the grocery store or food bank with bags full of filling — but not so nutrient-rich — foods, which often cost less.

That’s a problem, said Danielle Olney, a registered dietitian with Community Hospital Anderson.

“If someone is deprived of vitamins and minerals, a variety of different diseases can occur,” Olney said. “But it depends (on) which nutrients they are lacking.”

For example, a person with a long-term calcium deficiency could end up with osteoporosis, or poor dental and bone health. An iron deficiency could cause anemia.

­­Kean said his organization is working to combat that.

Year-to-date, they’ve distributed 10 million pounds of food, with just over 5 million of that, or 47 percent, being fresh produce. That’s a 2 million pound increase over last year.

While Second Harvest doesn’t make as hard a push for whole grains and other healthy foods, it “speaks to the idea that we’re focused on not only giving out food, but good food,” Kean said.

But providing nutritious foods gets harder with more people queuing up at food banks.

“It seems like the food banks are always looking for more donations as some people in our community struggle financially,” Olney said. “They have to battle to not only receive donations, but provide the best nutrition they can for those in need.”

Capt. Dennis Marak, pastor at the Anderson Salvation Army, said that’s a problem they’ve run into at their monthly food pantry.

“We’ve got to make our dollar go further, but still give our families a nutritious meal,” he said.

To make things even more complicated, people’s nutritional needs vary depending on their age, gender, medical status and a plethora of other factors.

Onley said some — such as pregnant women — have higher caloric needs, while some — such as elderly residents — often need less. Others need more iron, calcium or protein. The trouble is finding a menu that can run the gauntlet; A nutritional dragnet that meets every person’s needs.

Marak said the Salvation Army tries to hit all the major food groups when assembling its “meals-in-a-box.”

“We give them pasta, some tomato sauce, so they get vegetables and carbohydrates,” Marak said.  

He added that people can help by donating non-perishable, healthier foods like cereals, vegetables, canned meats and pastas.

Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook and @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter, or call 648-4250.

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