America’s relationship status with food should read ‘It’s Complicated.’ Hunger is on the rise and more and more families depend on food stamps. But obesity and diet-related disease are climbing too, especially among poorer populations. Is DC Central Kitchen, an organization founded feeding hungry and homeless people, really worried about them being overweight, too?
Yes. Obesity now costs the United States$100 billion a year. The lack of affordable, healthy foods is linked to a higher incidence of obesity, diabetes, and other related health problems. This problem is particularly prevalent in DC. Without access to fresh, healthy dietary options, Ward 7’s obesity rate has reached 40%; Ward 8’s, 42%.
Poverty and poor health reinforce each other. When people working at substandard wages with no benefits get sick, in part because of poor diets, they fall out of the workforce and become dependent on nonprofits and taxpayers. When children develop diet-related diseases young ages, they may never be healthy enough to find substandard wage work in the first place.
Anyone who has ever tried to eat healthier knows it is a complex task requiring complete lifestyle changes. That’s why DC Central Kitchen employs a multipronged approach to provide DC residents with healthy food throughout the day. In our 5,000 daily meals for partner agencies, we provide balanced, healthy dishes that are appropriate for individuals with various health issues and diet constraints.In schools, we prepare nearly 5,000 healthy, scratch-cooked breakfasts, lunches, and dinners each day for more than 2,000 low-income children. We also provide quality meals, snacks, and nutrition education to 40 after-school programs and summer camps for low-income youth.
In addition, we distribute fresh produce and nutritious snacks to corner stores in DC’s ‘food deserts’ – low income communities where healthy food access is limited. Children and adults looking for affordable, easy-to-eat snacks can now choose trail mix and hand fruit over candy and chips. Our ‘wraparound’ approach to promoting healthy eating among at-risk groups is unique across the country – and uniquely effective.