From The Driver's Seat: Rescuing Nutrition

August 1, 2016 Updated: January 23, 2024

Cathy Pedtke, one of our Drivers, talks about the nutritional impact of the food we deliver.

Tess3 Driver

Since I started driving with Lovin’ Spoonfuls, I have encountered some skeptics of the work I do. People can glance at the surface, at a line outside a pantry or a single person with a cardboard sign, and think “They don’t look like they’re starving.” And it’s difficult for me to explain that hunger and malnutrition look different than they have in the past: this hunger doesn’t stem from war, depression, or major drought. There is no shortage of food. 99¢ cheeseburgers are accessible to all, but healthy food –real food- is often physically or financially out of reach.

Many of the people I serve every day through our partners are battling both hunger and obesity simultaneously. How can you possibly be going hungry while gaining weight? Simple: the foods that are most affordable, easiest to access and prepare, are empty calories. Highly processed, heavy on fat, sugar, and salt, while often lacking the protein, fiber, and other nutrients that help you feel full and satisfied. Calories are cheap, but a balanced nutritious diet isn’t. Fresh produce, especially when organic and local, is the most nutritious part of any meal, providing a multitude of micronutrients that keep us healthy and prevent disease in countless ways. The micronutrients in a balanced diet are also an essential part of childhood development, and malnutrition early in life can have a life-long impact. But fresh produce is also the most expensive, the most time consuming to prepare (if you even have a kitchen to prepare it in), and the quickest to spoil. It’s often the expensive part of that equation that is the most deterrent, especially when working with an over-stretched budget or limited SNAP funds. Even I shy away from the organic raspberries and farmer’s market carrots when faced with much cheaper and less satisfying alternatives. ($5 for a pint of berries? Half of them will probably grow mold before I eat them. I could buy 3 boxes of raspberry pop-tarts for that price!)

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This is why I’m most excited to load fresh produce onto my truck. Whether it’s organic bananas from Whole Foods, peppers and eggplant from Russo’s, or locally grown collards from one of our farm partners, I’m not counting calories- I’m counting all the other nutrients that will now reach mouths and bodies that might not have been able to access them otherwise. Those bananas mean fiber, potassium, and natural sugars could be replacing processed sugar and artificial flavors in a smoothie, instead of a milk shake. Fresh peppers and eggplants mean more fiber and vitamins A, B, and C are getting added to someone’s plate. Collards are an oft-overlooked source of calcium and iron. So for those who ask whether the food I collect gets to people who really need it, my answer is a resounding yes. Everyone needs the nutrition and variety that fresh produce provides, and everyone deserves access to a healthy diet. And since I know the food I rescue gets to those who need it fast (often the very same day), those nutrients will be landing on someone’s plate, instead of in the garbage.

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