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NY Times: Food Banks Expand Beyond Hunger

November 8, 2012

The New York Times reported in their Giving section today that while food banks on the East Coast have been a key part of post-hurricane relief efforts, these days their mission is actually much broader than emergency response.

The article points out that for millions of people, food banks have become more than a stopgap measure; rather, they are a chronic coping strategy. Many food banks count the timely provision of fresh produce and nutrition education as among their newer core duties.
The San Francisco and Marin Food Banks lead the way, with fresh produce making up nearly two-thirds of the total distribution, as explained in this excerpt from the article:
"Just as groceries and restaurants have turned their attention to fresh produce in recent years, so have food banks; this has meant a greater focus on nutrition education and new logistical challenges of delivery. 'Two-thirds of the food we distribute is fresh produce,' said Paul Ash, executive director of the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks. Much of the food comes from packers and growers, he said, and if a truckload of carrots comes in, the food bank has no time to dither about what to do with it.
Since 'we have some clients who don’t have a good grasp of the basics of nutrition,' as Mr. Ash puts it, the San Francisco organization also offers cooking classes, while recognizing that many of its clients have limited kitchens. In a recent class, for example, students learned how to prepare ratatouille and scrambled eggs in a microwave.
The organization also sets up food pantries that resemble farmers markets. 'It’s a really respectful experience,' Mr. Ash said, and clients can choose among a variety of foods.'"