Family meals satisfy more than hunger

By Nancy Dew – MS, RD, LD, LMNT, Muscatine Hy-Vee Dietician

Have you ever been so hungry that no matter how much you eat, you just can’t feel full?  That’s a common problem with folks trying to lose weight. Instead of eating enough to be satisfied several times throughout the day, the denial of hunger is the strategy that culminates in a big dinner with continued snacking into the evening. That sense of feeling satisfied is unattainable and despite denying themselves all day, weight loss is negligible.

Self-inflicted hunger is one thing. Not having access to food is another. According to the Iowa Department of Education, over half the K-12 student population in Muscatine is eligible for free or reduced lunches. Furthermore, approximately 40% of L&M’s students, 30% of Wilton’s, and nearly 60% of West Liberty’s students are eligible for the same. These percentages represent a significant number of young lives and reflect the difficulty many Muscatine area families have in stretching their available food dollars.

There are two food pantries in Muscatine that serve our public well. Access to the Salvation Army’s food pantry is by appointment instead of specific hours, but every effort is put into providing access the day of the request. The food pantry serves about 100 families per month, but according to Lt. Cristine Lopez, at least 50 folks are also served lunch every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The Muscatine Food Pantry, located at the back of the Community Services building, is open 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. According to Bill Dyar, an average of 130 individuals, representing 435 family members, are served every time the doors are open.  Year to date, over 45,000 contributions to someone’s daily food supply have been made.

In addition to the lunch noted above at Salvation Army, there are free meals served daily in the community through the provision of Pearl City Outreach, MCSA and First Presbyterian Church’s Emmaus Café. For many, the food dollars saved by participating in these meals and using the food pantry helps stretch what they have for the month.

This intent of this article is not to list all the resources in our community and the number of recipients of the services provided. The point is that to have the habit of eating a meal as a family, there must be food. Hunger, whether self-inflicted or due to lack of resources, has no benefit. Unless hunger itself can be satisfied, the benefits of the family meal cannot be achieved.