Supermarket Bags for the Hungry Should Focus on Better Nutrition

I am writing in response to Michael Gold’s article on hunger bags in grocery stores (“Charity Food Purchases Should Offer Better Nutrition,” June 23-29). I couldn’t agree more that bags should be filled with items with higher nutritional value.

When we send our men and women on a humanitarian or military mission or up to the International Space Station, we make sure that we supply them with nutrition-packed foods. Why? Because they need their energy to do their jobs and keep their bodies healthy.  

Provisions in hunger bags should be no different; just maybe not in freeze-dried form! I would bet that, given the choice, a parent would want their child to have foods that are going to help them grow to be healthy, energetic and strong. There is so much evidence out there that sugar is non-nutritive and is the leading cause of illness in this country, and therefore, has the opposite effect of what hunger bags are trying to achieve.

There are many people who are food insecure who may get the requisite number of calories (many from sugar), but are those calories going to help them perform in their jobs (including students) and in their household or family responsibilities? The answer is no, and these calories give the false impression that someone who may be considered “over-nourished” is in fact malnourished. We have to get away from sugary and fatty foods, as they do not sustain the body for long and create the false impression in our brains that we are hungry after a short time. Our neighbors deserve better.

Mr. Gold suggests that the bags could be filled by the giver, which is a logical solution. However, in the age of COVID-19 that may not be possible. Moreover, many of us who wish to donate do not have the time to spend, nor does it have the knowledge of the store’s bottom line or budget for subsidization of the bags.

Instead, his second suggestion of the store supplying healthier foods might be the best option. We all understand that providing any food has a cost associated with it. I suggest that the stores ask food banks or other experienced leaders in feeding the hungry and get their input. It is likely that more nutrition-packed foods would be what they recommend. They can also work together to find a balanced and sustainable way for the store to truly address the hunger of our neighbors.

Like Mr. Gold, I truly feel for those in need. I also believe everyone wants to do their best. Let us give them a chance by supplying them with foods that will provide needed energy and a chance for a healthful lifestyle of good daily nutrition.

Karin M. Cabral
Yorktown Heights