Over a million low-income New Yorkers turn to emergency food providers such as food pantries and soup kitchens to feed themselves and their families. In the wake of the recession, hunger is significantly on the rise, and emergency food programs need a steady supply of wholesome, nutritious food to meet this demand. Since 1984, United Way of New York City has served as a local administrator for the New York State Department of Health’s Hunger Prevention & Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP). HPNAP is dedicated to improving the health status of vulnerable New Yorkers by not just providing meals and groceries but also improving the nutritional value of the food they eat.
Through HPNAP, United Way provides funding, training, and technical assistance to 400+ food pantries and soup kitchens throughout the five boroughs. Over the years, United Way has developed exceptional nutrition standards in order to ensure that emergency food recipients not only have access to food but receive high-quality, nutritious foods. Food pantries and soup kitchens spend at least 15% of their grant on fresh fruits and vegetables as well as ordering foods that are heart-healthy and rich in vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, and fiber.
Although providing access to high quality and affordable nutritious food is critical to improve health status, it is not always enough. To further facilitate behavior change, HPNAP publishes a monthly newsletter, Healthy Bites, which provides information on the benefits of healthy eating, strategies for incorporating healthy behaviors, and simple recipes to compliment reduced price fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Additionally, monthly hands-on cooking workshops and food safety trainings are offered to assist emergency food providers in their ongoing efforts to provide safe and nutritious foods.
Our work falls into three innovative strategies: