Survey finds food banks increasing focus on nutrition

Food bank nutrition
In an effort to boost the nationwide efforts of food banks, 15 of Canada’s top chefs and dietitians have created a new cookbook, Out of the Box: Healthy Family Pasta Meals on a Budget.

Over the past five years, food banks across Canada, including the London Food Bank, have increased their focus on nutrition, offering healthier options to better educate users on how to maximize the health benefits from what they eat.

That’s the finding of a recent survey that polled 15 organizations representing 251 food banks from coast to coast.

The study found all food banks regard nutritional consideration as important when serving their clients, with 47 percent citing it as “very important” and 53 percent viewing it as “extremely important.”

Ninety-three percent of food banks reported increasing their focus on nutrition over the last five years.

Conducted on behalf of Catelli Foods, the study found that even in locations where food donations were up, demand often exceeded supply — a reality that has contributed to food banks’ increased focus on health by doing the most they can with less.

“Studies consistently show that poor eating has a negative impact on a person’s health,” said London Food Bank co-director Glen Pearson. “We strive to provide the best food choices we can and promote healthy diets through the foods we distribute.”

Respondents indicated nutritional education is important for food donors as well as clients.

For example, while all food banks surveyed ranked snack foods as one of their least preferred donation items, 58 percent of them found these to be either their most or second-most donated item.

In an effort to boost the educational efforts of food banks nationally, 15 of Canada’s top chefs and dietitians — including Sheila Hames, executive chef of the Delta London Armouries, and Lisa Cianfrini, leading London-based dietitian — have come together to create nutritious and budget-friendly recipes compiled in a cookbook called Out of the Box: Healthy Family Pasta Meals on a Budget.

The cookbook is being launched as part of a campaign called Help us Feed the Hope, an initiative by Catelli Foods in support of Canada’s food banks.

For every share or download of the cookbook and its recipes, Catelli Foods will donate servings of pasta to food banks across the country, with the goal of donating a total of one million servings.

Complete with top food picks and health tips from the dietitian, the cookbook — which features recipes that can be made for a maximum of $15 for a family of four — is available for download free-of-charge at

Healthy eating is for everybody, Cianfrini said, explaining that a nutritious diet has been shown to help increase focus and learning, lower the risk of depression, as well as reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

“The cookbook is filled with tasty recipes that combine pasta with other nutritious, budget-friendly staples such as canned beans and vegetables,” said Cianfrini, whose top ingredient picks black beans, canned salmon and carrots are incorporated into a spaghettini recipe created by Hames.


LAWC breakfast spotlights need to stand up against abuse

LAWC breakfast_web
Judy Miller Rose, here with granddaughter Lexis Miller and the rest of the family, was keynote speaker at the 17th Annual International Women’s Day Breakfast and Auction.

Judy Miller Rose is a survivor and she’s never been shy talking about it.

In 1983, with the assistance of a London police constable and her young children in tow, Miller Rose escaped horrific abuse inflicted by her ex-husband. The abuse she suffered, and her life experiences, led her on a journey where she committed her life to working with abused women, offering them hope that they too could live their lives free from violence and abuse.

That journey brought her to a stage in front of more than 600 people on March 9 at the London Convention Centre (LCC) for the London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC) 17th Annual International Women’s Day Breakfast and Auction.

Her message to those facing abuse, reach out for help.

“Part of what happens when you’ve been in a relationship that has power and control is you isolate. And even when you get out of it, you continue to isolate, and that actually puts you at higher risk. It doesn’t feel like it at the time, but it does,” she said. “So I encourage those who are out there to reach out, to call London Abused Women’s Centre, to talk to friends and family, and to allow that wrap-around from the community to happen.”

The breakfast is the agency’s largest annual fundraiser with anticipated revenue of $60,000.

All funds are directed to providing front-line service to abused and exploited women and children over the age of 12 including women and girls exploited in prostitution/sex trafficking, abused by their intimate partners and/or exposed to sexual harassment.

The sold out breakfast, according to LAWC fund development co-ordinator Fabienne Haller, is an indicator of two things.

First, the breakfast — which currently only use about two-thirds of the LCC’s second floor ballroom — probably needs to be expanded for next year.

But even more importantly, the turnout reflects the passion Londoners have for confronting the problem of abuse.

“I truly believe the conversation on the issue of women abuse has increased in the last five or six years,” Haller said. “It has become more out there in the public and it’s really important that is the case.”

Haller said she has seen “amazing progress” in confronting the issue of abuse and despite setbacks in other countries, she expects change to continue worldwide. “There are some countries right now that are taking a step back,” she said. “It often happens, you take two steps forward and one step back. The important thing is you keep on going forward.”

London Police Chief John Pare was among those in the sold out audience.

Pare said officers often hear first-hand “the stories of sometimes years of abuse and how it impacts women,” which is why having an organization such as LAWC provide support, programming and services to women in need is so important.

Also essential in combating the abuse of women and children, the chief added, is having men stand up and be part of the solution.

“It starts with men recognizing that we have to do our part to step up and end intimate partner violence,” Pare said. “We have to break that cycle. There are men here, but we have to start with young boys, make sure they heard the message.”

It was a point echoed by Dr. Steven Harrison, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association Middlesex, who said it’s important men and women alike take a stand against violence.

Harrison said he also supports events like the breakfast because of the impact they have on the conversation about abuse.

“What’s happening in the United States is clearly having an impact on women, not only in the United States, but in North America and around the world,” he said. “The tides are starting to change. To me there is no divide between genders. We are just one large society and we have to figure out how to work together.”