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Food and the Heart

By Mary Beringer, Grant Coordinator

 

 

It’s been said that the quickest way to a person’s heart is through their stomach, and we at The Foodbank have definitely seen evidence of that. Food is how people show they care for each other, and it’s how we pass on stories. Every recipe is a narrative. It tells the reader what special occasions were like and what made up more mundane meals. Food can tell us who was present, what was available, and other vital details of the story.

Consider frybread, a food consumed in some form by basically every indigenous community across North America. It is a comfort food, and very easy to make. Its wide reach was achieved not because the ingredients to make it are naturally occurring across the continent, but because those ingredients were what came in the standard-issue government ration kits distributed to indigenous people as early as the 1800s. The dish speaks to the painful cultural history of multiple groups of people, but frybread is now a food of celebration, eaten at powwows and special occasions as a celebration of how far the indigenous community has come.

There are hundreds of other foods like frybread around the world that were created out of necessity and a drive to feed loved ones. Creativity can blossom under stress. So, when we pass along recipes like these, we are telling a story of the love of past generations. When we cook for each other, we are showing how much we care, by taking time out of our day to do something special for the people we love. It can be a complex feast, or something much simpler. Many parents from Asian countries show their love by cutting up fresh fruit for their children. It’s the effort that speaks volumes.

It is important, however, when discussing where matters of the heart intersect with food, to remember to take care of our hearts in the physical sense. February is American Heart Month, when we are reminded to be kind to the vital muscles that keep our blood pumping. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, followed by cancer. The best ways to prevent heart disease include exercise, not smoking or vaping, avoiding stress, and eating right.

However, it is important to acknowledge how some of those tasks may be more difficult for people experiencing food insecurity. In fact, people who do not regularly have access to healthy food tend to be more likely to die from heart failure. The cause of this link is still up for debate, but it is likely a combination of factors, including the poor nutritional content of cheap foods, the stress of being food insecure, and an inability to afford or access life-altering medications like insulin.

So when you’re showing your love in the kitchen, on a holiday or throughout the year, consider balancing tradition with the kinds of foods that can make your heart feel good. If you have access to those foods, that’s wonderful, and if you need a little assistance, The Foodbank has over a hundred partner agencies ready to help.

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