2016-06-22 / Columns

Share your bounty with hungry children this summer

STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART
MARLA MEYERS
Executive Director, Jewish Family & Children’s Service

Hunger in the South Jersey region still remains a formidable foe. Last year, our Betsy and Peter Fischer Food Pantries served over 7,000 individuals. We expect that our pantry demand will continue for some time. We will do our best to address the needs of our community members. Summer months are especially challenging for struggling families and for our pantries…and this season will be no exception.

Children who would normally rely on lunch and breakfast programs and snacks through their schools will be missing— and requiring—those meals. Families who would normally find it difficult to pull together one or two meals daily—will now be scraping together two to three. Not to mention additional snacks and drinks needed throughout the summer days for growing children. To complicate this dire situation, it is documented that many families who rely on food pantries are also unable to procure the healthiest types of foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

The JFCS Gardens for Good initiative is in place this and every summer to encourage our community and friends of JFCS to share their crops with our pantries. Your valuable produce contributions from your summer bounties can change the life of a child this summer. It can help alleviate the stress and struggle foodinsecure families experience as they try to provide the optimal food choices for their children. While your garden may appear to be just carrots, or lettuce, or corn—for a child it can mean improved energy, a better immune system to stave off sickness, and fortification for their entire body so that they are the healthiest they can be.

Clinicians say children who eat balanced meals with healthy fiber, fruits, and vegetables are more energetic, have strong bones and can more readily fight off disease such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems. According to a study by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for the Secretary of Agriculture and the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, the consequences of unhealthy diet can lead to energy imbalance (e.g., eating more calories than one expends through physical activity), impaired cognitive development, and can increase one’s risk for obesity. Reduced healthy food intake and disrupted eating patterns because a household lacks money and other resources for fruits and vegetables, especially during the summer months, exacerbates all of these risks.

As we live in the Garden State, it seems reasonable that we can do more to bring nutritious meals to so many children and their families who find it hard to maintain a healthy eating pattern and lack nutrition that can only be truly received through the bounty of the Earth. Many homeowners with backyard gardens, local farmers, and retail establishments selling vegetables often find that they grow or have more produce than they can use. We can put that overabundance to good use. So far, we are thankful to have the partnerships of Whole Foods, Cherry Hill; Hazon Community Supported Agriculture; Touch New Jersey Food Pantry; and Sovereign Grace Church, and would love for you to also join us in this wonderful endeavor.

The three JFCS food pantries that serve clients in Camden, Gloucester, and Burlington counties are completely reliant on donations—with your help, we are hopeful that we can bring nourishment from your backyards to the breakfast, lunch, and dinner tables of our client families. On behalf of all the children who rely on our pantries, we thank you for gardening for their good.

I encourage you to call Andi Loew at (856) 424-1333, ext. 1180 to learn how you can make an impact through our Gardens For Good donation program. s mmeyers@jfedsnj.org

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