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New Trends in Nutrition: Helping Others Help Themselves

By Luis Fernandez
Food Pyramid -

Those that live in need

Before and after the 2012 presidential elections there has inevitably been a lot of talk about the overall condition of the economy. Politicians are asked daily what they intend to do to help struggling Americans out of the slump of unemployment. What strategies will the President implement to help Americans living at or below the poverty line raise their standard of living?

While there are a lot of questions being raised in the media concerning poverty during campaign season, one aspect that remains constant no matter the political arena is the threat of hunger amongst the poor.

New trends in serving

Organizations established to help fight hunger have existed for years on both a national and international level. More often than not, these groups are heavily focused on obtaining donations from the public in order to fund their relief efforts. Profits earned through donations are used to buy food products that are handed out directly to those in need. Similarly, organizations end up relying on government grants to help provide for the less fortunate.

Within individual communities, you can often find establishments such as food kitchens and homeless shelters that regularly offer a limited number of meals on a first come, first serve basis. Food pantries and religious organizations appeal to the public for generous donations to stock their shelves, while high schools and elementary schools host fundraisers and food drives on an annual basis.

While these efforts and organizations all stem from a desire to help, they may be more so temporary fixes to what often turns out to be a long term problem. In an effort to find solutions that are more sustainable in the long-run, some organizations are branching out in new directions.

Helping others help themselves

There is a new effort being launched within the world of charity-outreach that is forging an innovative path. The ultimate goal of these helpful endeavors is to establish facilities and organizations that ultimately allow the hungry to feed themselves. This is meant to be two-fold in its end results. The hope is that by creating a system which provides long-term and self-sufficient provisions; you are able to offer the hungry an opportunity to pull themselves up into a better life with dignity.

The problem with traditional outreach programs lies in their temporary nature. While it is absolutely beneficial to feed the hungry for a day, how much more effective would it be to establish a system that allows the hungry to eat for days on end? What these new organizations are striving for is not to provide a free meal ticket, but to provide a lifestyle that allows people to improve their futures and fill their stomachs by their own hand for the long-term.

Hidden Harvest

Even in the middle of an economic crisis, Americans are fortunate enough to have to deal with excess in some very specific areas of production. One organization is taking advantage of this situation and using it to benefit the hungry. Based out of Coachella, California, Hidden Harvest coins them a produce recovery program.

With the hopes of helping those dealing with poverty, while simultaneously utilizing what others view as ‘waste,’ Hidden Harvest aims to provide nutritious meals and sustainable jobs for families in need.

Every year, the end of harvest season means thousands of pounds of excess produce left in the fields for farmers. Produce may be abandoned because they are not cosmetically acceptable, over produced, or there is simply no market demand for such a high quantity. Hidden Harvest employs low-income farmers to collect these leftover goods and then distributes them at no cost to over 60 local agencies.

In addition to providing low income families employment opportunities, this organization believes in the value of production itself. They work to provide seeds, water and garden space for families to produce their own food sources which will be a continuous source of nutrition.

Celebrity efforts

These budding organizations are not without their celebrity counterparts. Working under the slogan “Everyone is welcome at our table,” star performer Jon Bon Jovi has ventured into the world of sustainable charities with the opening of his soul kitchen. An off shoot of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, the soul kitchen functions as a community restaurant where menus are priceless…..literally.

Soul Kitchen is a restaurant that caters to those who cannot afford their own meals. Customers are invited to come in and are seated on a first come, first serve basis at community friendly tables. While there are no prices listed on the menu, customers are welcome to either donate what they can, or volunteer their services in return for a meal voucher.
Soul Kitchen goes beyond simply providing meals and strives to deliver nutritious dinners as well. When possible, the organization states they will offer organic meals. It is yet another new umbrella idea that many sustainable charities are undertaking; the belief that just because a person lives below the poverty level, does not mean they don’t deserve healthy and nutritious meals.

Reaching out to the new generation

While there is a tendency to think of the adult population when considering the implications of hunger in the U.S, it’s important to note that children are also standing in lines at soup kitchens across the nation. By reaching out to underprivileged children today, charity founders are hoping to make big changes tomorrow.

Feeding Children Better Fund is one such charity that aims to feed and sustain hungry children in the United States through a three step process. They strive to provide schools with nutritious after-school meals improve distribution of wholesome food to local food banks and raise public awareness. If hungry children are given the chance at a better future, than they will be able to carry those healthy lessons and habits into the future with them.

New trends and bright horizons

While these are only a few of the many new efforts in the field of sustainable charity-work, efforts to feed the hungry in efficient and long-lasting ways are on the rise. With a new focus on long-term delivery, independent contribution and nutrition, organizations across the nation are making big strides in the fight to end hunger in the healthiest way possible. Do you think a “Helping others help themselves” outlook is going to be effective in the long run?

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