Last fall, Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina launched a new Community Health and Engagement Department, under the leadership of Gideon Adams. He took the time to answer some questions about what this means for hunger and health in our 34-county service area.
First off, why start a new department?
The primary purpose of this department is to build on the great work we already do; that of providing access to food to those living in food insecure situations, but moreover, to provide access to nutritious food, whether that be directly or by providing education and information on nutrition. This will mean being a catalyst for further evolution of the nutrition policies we currently work by.
What’s one thing you wish people knew about hunger’s relationship to health?
We want people to realize the scale of the problem in our state and nation, but I think it’s also important to demystify some myths about food insecurity. One of the common misconceptions about food insecurity revolves around the issue of so-called “lifestyle” related health challenges and how an individual with low access to food can suffer from obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or any number of other related conditions.
Unfortunately, in many cases, the limited access to food that our clients are faced with also means limited access to nutritious food. Whatever little food they can source tends to be highly processed, high salt, sugar and fat and therefore has a negative rather than nourishing effect. In my new role, I am working to improve that cycle.
What are some of your major goals for the Community Health & Engagement Department?
We hope to set a robust nutrition policy for Food Bank CENC and this will be a major goal that will impact many aspects of our current services as well as developing new ones. I am tasked with developing new strategies and initiatives that will have a direct, positive impact on our clients. I will also be looking at strategic collaboration to analyze and shape the development of traditional and alternative food systems.
One of my main roles will be to build programs that assist our clients to become less reliant on our network of emergency pantries and services, and to build resources that will move them into a more food secure and self-reliant situation. Food Bank CENC has become the leader in the more traditional provision of food resources and I hope we bring that experience and expertise to the conversations and solutions coming out of the current interest in food systems.