Nutrition Analysis of Meals Served During the Free Meals Program by Food at First, and the Supports and Challenges of Providing These Meals

Balakrishnan, Vemala Devi
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My past interest in the area of community nutrition has motivated me to analyze the nutrition information of the meals served during the free meal program in Ames, Iowa by Food at First. Recipes collected for meals on 10 different days are analyzed using Food Processor software. The results generated from the software show that the average values of the meals satisfy one third of the energy need recommended for the day. When compared to MyPlate, the meals provide about one third of recommended amount of grains, protein, vegetable and dairy, but not fruits. From the interview with the head chefs and sometimes other volunteers who helped to prepare the meals, they share a common view that some food service organizations in Ames are supports of this program as few large- scale grocery stores provide the food items used for cooking the meals while some bakeries donate their baked goods which are served as desserts during the meal times. Including variations in the type of food, especially fruits and vegetables is a challenge for the head cooks when they mostly have the non-perishable goods in the food pantry to cook. The program is beneficial because it channels the excess food to those who are in need of food.