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 www.catelli.ca.
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.