by Erika Dahlgren
“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
– Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (1996)
Food is more than just fundamental to our survival as human beings; food brings us together around the dinner table with our families, it serves as a reminder of our cultures and heritage, and functions as an integral component of managing both our physical and emotional wellbeing. The emotional quality that food brings out is often overlooked, but for those who worry where their next meal will come from, it becomes all consuming. The fear of asking for help, the pain of hunger, and the alienation from society, are important considerations when studying food insecurity.
It is essential when tackling the topic of food insecurity to view the issue holistically; addressing accessibility, prioritizing the nutrition quality, and involving ourselves on a community level to provide our neighbors with both the food and empathy we all deserve as individuals.
More than ever, the nutritional quality of food supplied to those experiencing food insecurity is a key focus. Even though many food banks are successful at supplying their clients with a variety of food items, the nutritional content of the food is often lacking, as it is difficult to predict the supply of foods dictated by donating entities. Consequently, it is fundamental for food banks to recognize the strong association between food insecurity and poor health, in order to enact policies and practices that provide food of higher nutritional quality. With a new focus on increasing nutrition security, the goal of food banks is to supply both quantity and quality of food to those in need of assistance.
Within Yolo County, 12.1% or 26,300 residents fall within the definition of food insecure as reported in the 2021 Sacramento Region Food System Action Plan. Notably, these statistics do not fully encompass the vast number of people living below the poverty line. With an ongoing pandemic and inflation rates at unprecedented heights this past year, the price of food is at an all time high, meaning more people than usual are facing financial hardship when purchasing their nourishment and depend on assistance.
In Yolo County, there exists a variety of agencies working to provide nutritious food in different ways and to meet different needs. These include Meals on Wheels, CommuniCare, the Center for Land-Based Learning, and the Yolo Food Bank. Yolo County also administers the Federal CalFresh program, which provides financial resources to purchase food.
These organizations, among others, are vital institutions promoting food equality, while keeping sustainability and community engagement at the forefront of their missions. They provide more than just nourishment, they seek to accommodate medical needs, cultural preferences, and give access to safe and preventive health services, providing easy to access food—some even directly to homes. By understanding the unique and personalized situations of each individual, cumulatively these organizations are able to provide a variety of services to address the many facets of food insecurity within our community.
If yourself or someone you know is in need of nutritional assistance, or would like to donate, volunteer or learn more about any of the aforementioned organizations, please visit their websites listed down below.
Meals on Wheels: https://www.mowyolo.org/
Center for Land-Based Learning: https://landbasedlearning.org/
Yolo Food Bank: https://yolofoodbank.org/
Erika Dahlgren is a senior at Davis Senior High School in Davis, California. Her passion for health flourished throughout the decade she spent as a competitive swimmer, where she learned about the importance of nutrition for optimal training and performance. Erika’s nutrition interests expanded to a community level when she became a regular volunteer for the Yolo Food Bank at the start of 2020. She is currently interning at the Yolo Food Bank and plans to pursue an undergraduate major in nutrition and biological sciences when she attends college in the fall of 2022.