On Sept. 28, the Biden-Harris administration held a conference on hunger, nutrition and health. Its purpose was to bring the public, private and nonprofit sectors together to create a coordinated strategy to drive progress to end hunger and improve diet-related diseases and disparities by 2030.
The first Hunger, Nutrition and Health Conference, which was held in 1969, influenced the government's nutrition agenda for decades. And it led to the creation of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Women Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program and updated the way manufacturers label food.
But there's still work to be done.
When individuals, families and children are hungry, they struggle with high levels of stress and have little bandwidth to do more than meet their basic needs. Food insecurity causes higher rates of mental health issues, depression, anxiety and a higher risk for chronic diseases. Hungry children can suffer from physical, developmental and cognitive impairments, resulting in lower academic achievement than that of their peers.
We can, and we must, do better.
The staff and volunteers at the United Way of Tri-County’s three food pantries work every day to meet the needs of a growing number of families seeking assistance. From January to August, 1,990 new families registered for support. In response, we provided 3 million pounds of food to clients, and more than 72,000 meals to individuals and families.
Our MetroWest food pantry is open five days a week; hot meals include breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday through Friday, with lunch served on weekend days. In Greater Clinton, we are delivering lunch and dinner to seniors, and providing daily lunches and groceries at our pantry, including fresh produce. The Community Cupboard in Marlborough was recently expanded by 40%, had a lift added, and new refrigeration was installed to expand services.
We extended wrap-around services with our partners and are assisting clients with applications for additional services.
While we wait to learn details of the White House Conference, we express our gratitude to the administration for committing more than $8 billion to realize the goal of ending hunger by 2030.
But until the path forward is clear, there is still much we can all do to help those in need. Please consider donating, volunteering or advocating for those in need at www.uwotc.org/food.
Paul Mina is president and CEO of the United Way of Tri-County a nonprofit based in Framingham that aims to help provide basic himan needs to residents in 34 area communities.