As We End The Year, Let's Remember Our Food Banks

The Lempert Report
December 30, 2016

Our food banks provide a terrific resource for millions of Americans who are food insecure.

Typically our food banks have relied on the basics, but now they are upping their game and taking a lesson form food marketers. 

"Nudging" — a sales tactic that tries to make food look more appealing and easy to reach — encourages people to buy something. And NPR reports that several food banks around the country have been learning that this marketing tactic works well. 

Sharing Life Community Outreach in Mesquite, Texas, looks more like a small grocery store than a food pantry. Its two aisles offer more than canned goods and dried beans. The shelves are loaded with chicken, greens, cauliflower and fresh berries. 

Shelecia Morris is a customer and says she eats better because of it: "I look at the different brands that they have, like the organic. I found out that it's very good, so I try to eat as healthy as I can with what I can get."

One swap she recently made? Whole wheat pasta instead of regular. Whole wheat pasta is be one of the foods Sharing Life told NPR they are "nudging." It has a prominent spot on the shelf, where it's easy to see and grab. Signs touting its health benefits hang nearby, explaining how whole grains may improve cholesterol and lower the risk of diabetes. 

Sharing Life and a dozen other food pantries in Texas, New Jersey and Colorado participated in a study conducted by Cornell University and Feeding America, where "nudges" were used as cues that help shoppers make decisions, especially in our food environment. 

For the study, a short list of "foods to encourage" was compiled: whole wheat bread, oatmeal, onions, cabbage, oranges and carrots.The end result? "Nudging" led to a 46 percent increase in people taking home at least one of the featured foods. 

Be sure to add helping your local food bank or pantry, by volunteering or donating what you can, to your top New Year’s resolutions for 2017. 

Happy New year from all of us at