This blog post was written by Michael Barry, Second Harvest’s Food Drive Coordinator and our in-house Peanut Butter Aficionado. Read on to learn about the joys of peanut butter, why it is a good food to donate to food drives, and about other excellent healthy foods that can help families in need.
Like other Food Banks around the country, here at Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina we received literal tons of food donations during the holiday season.
Each and every one of those donations will be important in bringing much needed relief to those facing food insecurity in Northwest North Carolina, but as the Food Drive Coordinator of one of the largest hunger relief organizations in the state, there is one special item that I love to see when I go to pick up from a successful food drive.
Of course, I’m talking about peanut butter, and to celebrate January 24th as National Peanut Butter Day, I wanted to take a moment to explain why I love this leguminous luxury so much and why it is my all-time favorite food drive donation item.
The most important quality that makes peanut butter an amazing donation item is that it’s a healthy, nutrient dense food. It is protein rich, a great source of mono- and polyunsaturated fats (the good kinds of fat!), and an excellent source of minerals and vitamins.
The American Heart Association has certified peanut butter as a heart healthy food, and there are studies linking consumption of peanuts and peanut butter to lower levels of bad cholesterol and a reduced risk for heart disease. Furthermore, despite its caloric density, there is a heap of evidence suggesting that it can play an important role in maintaining a healthy weight and BMI. All of these benefits combined with the fact that it’s absolutely delicious make peanut butter a solid choice to help combat malnutrition and hunger.
Peanuts and peanut butter are also culturally important, especially in the American South. I’m going to argue that it is the original All-American food. Peanuts have a long history of cultivation beginning in South America and going back almost 3,500 years. While nowadays you can find peanuts grown on every continent except Antarctica, when it comes to peanut butter, the United States is the world’s leading exporter. In fact, every year Americans consume $800 million of peanut butter products, and peanuts and peanut butter account for 67% of all nut products consumed in the United States.
In North Carolina alone, we dedicated 118,000 acres to peanut production last year, and all across the Southern United States, you’ll find peanut festivals and a myriad of town celebrations with the sole purpose of exalting the glory of the peanut harvest. Obviously, as Americans, we love peanuts and peanut butter, and why shouldn’t we? Even though we didn’t invent the idea of peanut butter (that’s an honor reserved for the Aztecs), we did pioneer the modern process of making it, beginning with John Harvey Kellogg’s patent on peanut butter in 1898 and continuing on to our domination of the world’s peanut butter industry today. All of this goes to show that peanut butter is an amazing food and a wonderful idea the next time you go to make a donation at your local food pantry. Of course, you should also consider peanut butter substitutes like almond or cashew butter for those who have allergies and take appropriate steps to avoid cross contamination with your other donation items. For a list of our most needed food drive items, click here.
If you’re reading this and you find yourself called to spread the love of peanut butter to those who are going without, please consider hosting a food drive for Second Harvest or your local food pantry.
Remember, when we work together to solve hunger in our communities, we’re the best combination since peanut butter and jelly.