Chances are you know what a food bank or pantry is. Maybe you have volunteered for one. They are free food distribution organizations and their one purpose is to alleviate hunger. And they accomplish their purpose well by giving a lot of food to a large number of needy people.

Although they do a lot of good to get food to hungry people, there are three gaps

It’s not always nutritious food.

Hunger is alleviated by a food pantry to the detriment of a healthy diet.

You might ask, isn’t it better to have a full meal of filling, but unhealthy food than to have no food at all? We would agree, however, food pantries can actually do more harm in the long term than good.

Because a food bank receives large quantities of donated food to distribute to food pantries and has to store the food for long periods, they typically can only receive non-perishable food items. Their shelves are stacked high with canned goods and processed foods but rarely with fruits and vegetables.

In fact, according to a UAMS study published in the journal of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which surveyed 357 food pantries representing 5 food banks across Arkansas, they found only 18.5% of food pantries had written nutrition guidelines.

Food pantry participants receive food that perpetuates their chronic diet-related illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. This amounts to high medical bills; The excess total healthcare cost associated with food insecurity is $1,607 per food insecure adult in Arkansas according to Feeding America.

However, a food [pantry] hand-out makes up a large portion of the diet of 5% of US households because it is the only source that is affordable.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, grocery prices rose 5.4% since October 2020, and meats, poultry, fish, and eggs rose by a combined total of 10.5% from Sept 2020 to Sept 2021.

Not everyone has access to food banks

To make the situation even more complex, there is another portion of US households that do not have the physical capability to get to a food bank due to a handicap or unreliable transportation.

Food banks perpetuate food waste and do not promote the dignity of choice

Only 19.3% of food pantries in Arkansas offer client choice. That means the majority of food pantry participants do not select the food they take home so their bag may be filled with food they may not like or want, increasing the food they will end up wasting.

This is where Well Fed is uniquely set up to help.

We have video series called Q&A Thursday where our executive director, Josh Harris, explains terms related to the food access system to help you learn more! To start the series off, Josh explains the “gaps” in our current food access system and how we’re filling them.

Take a look!