The Earth’s Food
Healthy Food With No Budget Money is waning. People are hungry. Health is being sacrificed. Whatâ€™s the solution? - BY DREW MITCHELL Photos by Chris Fryer
Canned foods and boxed products line she shelves at the Manna Mart in Bowling Green, Ky..
n an average American city, nearly 20% of the population lives below the poverty level, meaning that a family is forced to live on less than $20,000. After the rent is paid and the utilities are ensured, the importance of healthy food is nearly forgotten.
In a time of great economic uncertainty and less employment than there are hungry people, many individuals are being denied the necessary food and nutrition that everyone needs. With the bright neon lights on every street corner and a tastily cheap dollar menu, McDonaldâ€™s and other fast food restaurants tempt those who crave the security of knowing that their family can be fed for under $5. Although this food is hot, convenient, and filling, it is also fattening, processed, and excessively high in sodium. A family cannot live on fast food alone, and they shouldnâ€™t have to do so. Barbara Banton, a client and volunteer of Hotel, Inc. a Christian care network in Bowling Green, Ky, first came to the organization after having a stroke and being let go from her job. Banton had no income and no way of providing for herself.
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“I came here first needing help with everything,” she said, “here, that’s what they did.” “Asking for help was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but they taught me that it is OK to need. Hotel, Inc. also houses The Manna Mart, a food pantry that serves dozens of people each week.
“We don’t turn anyone away,” said Robbins. She elaborated by saying that individuals simply come into the Manna Mart, present a social security card, a past pay stub, and are given a box of food. “We try to give them, in our
As the charming Banton sorted through donated baked goods from Panera Bread that will be given to all clients, her happiness about finding Hotel, Inc. was evident.
“I would probably be dead if I didn’t watch I eat and make sure that I eat nutritiously.” Manna Mart relies on its core of volunteers; including Stephanie Robbins and John Baize to ensure that food packages are prepared and ready to be
“We want them to get out of this cycle,” she said, “However, it’s very hard to make a major change and turn a life around.”
Both volunteers said that Hotel. Inc., due to a lack of recourses, discourages continuous repeat visits. “We recommend other food banks around the city and government programs.” Robbins said.
“Hotel, Inc. makes everyone feel comfortable, no matter how bad your situation is,” she said. As a diabetic, Banton said that she has to be very cautious about what she eats.
Robbins said that another major component of the volunteer’s job is to encourage the visitors to become financially stable.
Erika Lindsey, an 18-year-old high school senior from Bowling Green, Ky. separated from her mother in the last month and is now trying to survive on her own.
Barbara Banton sorts through donated bread. limited scope, a nutritious meal with protein, meat, vegetables, fruit and a dessert,” Robbins said. “If somebody is in need of food, they can come and get three days worth of food at a time.”
“I’m living with my friend and this is my only option for food right now,” she said as she picked up her food bag. Lindsey said that she knew about the necessity of fresh and healthy food but said that there was very little that she could currently do. “You’ve gotta do what you
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gotta do and if you don’t have nutritious food, you don’t have it,” she plainly said.
Over the next few months, Lindsey said that her budget will be tightening even more. Her friend and roommate must undergo brain surgery to remove a cyst and the impending bills for medication and healthcare resources will undermine the money set aside for food.
“Sometimes I don’t plan right,” she said, “but if I come and ask for help and if I follow the rules they will help me and anyone with almost anything.”
Banton said that she can survive off of the canned goods available at the Manna Mart, but to help her diabetes, she uses her food
Cinda Painter, Hotel, Inc’s receptionist takes time to talk with each client about how they should prepare for the future and how they should go about getting back on their own two feet.
A major part of Hotel, Inc. lies in the educational aspects as well as the immediate service. Banton said that she values every tool that Hotel, Inc. has to offer.
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Now, 16 years later, Angel Food Ministries serves over 500,000 families a month in over 35 states.
Juda Engelmayer, chief spokesperson for Angel Food Ministries, said, “We help people eat for less.” Simply speaking, Angel Food Ministries allows individuals and families to fill out a form in person or place their order online and receive healthy food for a fraction of what the grocery store would be.
“I’ll definitely be back here,” she said.
“She has told me about different job ideas that I can try until I can go to school,” Lindsey said.
feeding 34 families in Monroe, Ga.
“It’s easy to begin,” he said, “go to the Web site, order online, and pick up your food at one of the local host sites.”
John Baize separates new additions to the food pantry. stamps to purchase the fresh vegetable package from Angel Food Ministries, a nationwide organization that was founded in 1994 and at the time was
The food that is purchased by individuals is originally bought from national vendors such as Purdue and Tyson for bulk rates. “We buy $14 million worth of food at a time,” Engelmayer said, “and by picking up the food ourselves, packing it ourselves, and distributing it ourselves, we are able to cut out almost all of the middle-man fees.”
“All of our food is fresh,” he said, allowing participants in the program to have access to healthy food with the original nutrients intact.
Angel Food Ministries does not have an income requirement.
“We don’t make people submit income documentation because we do not want to make them inferior to others,” Engelmayer said about the association’s policies.
healthily for much less than traditional grocery shopping methods.
“About ¾ of the food is flash frozen, fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. The other fourth is made up of fresh eggs, milk, and juice,” she said.
The program offers special boxes for seniors that are low on sodium and sugar, allergen free
“In the past four years, we have had over 8,000 people participating at one,” she said, emphasizing that more and more people are taking advantage of the program.
Although the program is helpful for the participants, still others do not have $30 each month that can be applied for this food. Another one of the Bowling Green food banks is the food pantry at the local chapter of the American Red Cross.
Patrons choose items from a monthly menu and wait for the food to arrive for pickup in their town. In Bowling Green, there are two locations where locals can become a part of the program. Bonnie Sherwood is the site director for one of the locations.
“It’s hard to eat when you are in so much need,” Sherwood said. “Most of our clients are without a job and in need of as much help as they can get.” Sherwood emphasized that this program was a way to eat
Jennifer Capps, executive director of the South Central Kentucky Red Cross, said that donations from local organizations are what allow the organization to feed the populace.
Another view of the Manna Mart Food Pantry. boxes, boxes geared towards grilling, boxes with contents that will, no doubt appeal to children.
“We generally give out more easy items,” Capps said, “canned goods, meats, baking
Like the Manna Mart, the food pantry checks an individual’s paperwork and income information before they are allowed to begin working with
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Capps said that new clients sometimes arrive at the pantry, but normally the same individuals appear month after month. “We try to serve everybody, but resources are so tight that we are only available to help a family once every two months and are only open two days a week for two hours at a time,” Capps said.
The Congressional Hunger Center, led by executive director Ed Cooney is an organization that is leading the way in teaching individuals how to be smart grocery shoppers and how to better utilize food pantries only when necessary. “We try to help people make more prudent choices when shopping for food to feed their
Similarly to The Manna Mart, the Red Cross food pantry has no budget and all items are donated.
people have to learn how to most appropriately stretch their money” “People that are on food stamps have no spare income,” he said, adding that whenever individuals can get access to more money, they normally spend it wisely.
Cooney said that when individuals have money, even small amounts of funding, they tend to know how to spend the money in the most effective way.
“We rely solely on generous donators,” Robbins of Hotel, Inc. said.
“We just got a massive donation from WKU that will hopefully tide us over for a while,” Baize said as he sorted through the hundreds of new cans that had to be labeled and divided among the food bags.
For these organizations, it is becoming necessary that clients learn how to self-sufficient and make healthy choices.
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All new products must be marked with the month before distribution. families with,” Cooney said.
“We know that a lot of money is not always accessible and that
Although Cooney thinks that lowincome people know how to shop, the problem lies in the lack of money. He said that a major part of his job is working with legislators to ensure that new legislation is written that will care for America’s poor, trying to get them as many benefits as possible and extensions to the food stamps
“Our preference is for people to have access to real food via grocery stores.” he said, “We want to get people food,
+ Drew Mitchell
Money is waning. People are hungry. Nutrition is being sacrificed. What's the solution?