MANNA FoodBank’s Nutrition Works program strives to address hunger’s impact on the health and wellbeing of our Western North Carolina communities. Through practical approaches that focus on sustainability and strong relationships with existing local programs and resources, we build a network of people and organizations working to reduce food insecurity while improving community health.
Addressing the Intersection of Hunger and Health
North Carolinians experience a higher rate of health issues than the national average, and the Appalachian region of the state again outpaces even the state’s higher rates. The connection of hunger to chronic health issues is clear: processed, sugar-laden foods are far more affordable than nutritious foods, and thus more accessible and easier on a household budget already struggling to afford basic groceries.
Healthy Food Inventory
Working through an organizational lens of nutrition, the Nutrition Works team provides support and guidance for acquiring the most nutritious foods available to maintain a balance of calorie-dense and nutrient-dense foods. In 2020/2021 MANNA maintained an average of 25% fresh produce in the total inventory and 67% of MANNA’s inventory is categorized as “healthy staples,” which includes canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and dairy items.
Growing Healthy Food Access with Partners
Building partnerships is key to addressing the widespread issue of health implications connected to food insecurity. The Nutrition Works program is focused on supporting a culture of health and nutrition throughout the region with an emphasis on sustainable healthy food access.
Food Equity Partnership
MANNA FoodBank has begun a collaboration with Partnership for a Healthier America, an organization working to transform the food landscape in pursuit of health equity. Nutrition Works and MANNA have committed to implement an evidence-based nutrition ranking system to provide our community partners and customers access to nutrition information and healthier options.
Food Relief Partners
The Nutrition Works program works to build a network of healthy pantry environments that are providing and promoting healthy food. The team engages with members of the MANNA Partner Network, MANNA Community Market hosts, and other emergency food providers around nutrition education and behavior change with a strategic approach built on an evidence-based model. This model includes cooking demonstrations, taste tests and simple nutritious recipes with a focus on available produce for distribution at pantries. We support our partners with other proven strategies to promote customer health including connecting partners with nutrition information, signage and implementing a health focused inventory ranking system.
Nutrition Works supports and educates future registered dietitians from regional educational institutions. Working directly with a Registered Dietitian, students learn how to apply their knowledge of nutrition to help develop healthy, budget-friendly recipes, contribute to policy development and produce nutrition education and promotional materials. This experience is integral to a better understanding of the causes and effects of food insecurity on individual and community health and the importance of nutrition in the larger scope of health and human services.