A diet consisting of nutritious food is essential for your oral and overall health. However, more than 650,000 people living in Virginia don’t have access to the food they need to sustain a healthy lifestyle. Delta Dental of Virginia wants to change this.
With the support of community partners and dedicated team members, Delta Dental of Virginia organized a regional effort to collect and donate much-needed food items to Feeding Southwest Virginia. Additionally, both Feeding Southwest Virginia and the Federation of Virginia Food Banks received a $5,000 donation from the Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation.
“It was amazing to see the response of our team members, partners and community members that answered the call to help friends and neighbors in the Commonwealth struggling with food insecurity,” said Polly Raible, Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation executive director.
Filling local pantries via food banks
One in eight people living in southwest Virginia doesn’t know where their next meal will come from. Local food banks, such as Feeding Southwest Virginia, provide food to those who need it most.
That is why Delta Dental of Virginia teamed up with community partners Carilion Clinic and Freedom First Credit Union to collect and donate more than 2,000 pounds of food items to Feeding Southwest Virginia. The partnership significantly increased the impact of the food drive, demonstrating the need for a community-wide response to food insecurity.
“These donations are vital to our food bank as inflation prices rise and we continue to serve more than 100,000 meals monthly,” said Pamela Irvine, Feeding Southwest Virginia president and CEO. “Community partners like Delta Dental of Virginia are seeing the need and responding, and we appreciate their efforts to work toward nourishing our food-insecure neighbors.”
According to the USDA, food insecurity is a lack of consistent access to enough food to live a healthy life. Examples of food insecurity include skipping meals or reducing the amount of food consumed. Many factors cause food insecurity; however, the most common reasons are not having the finances to purchase food or living in a “food desert.” A food desert is an area that lacks grocery stores or other fresh food sources. These areas often have high levels of unemployment, low income and inadequate access to transportation. Individuals with food insecurity often rely on food banks to supply healthier food items. Without them, the ability to access nutritious items may not be possible.
“Food insecurity and lack of proper nutrition can have a major impact on a person’s oral and overall health, and we appreciate the opportunity to team up with our community partners to support food and nutrition programs in Virginia,” said Raible.
The impact of food insecurity on overall health
For people challenged with food insecurity, it can be hard to access fresh food. They may turn to unhealthy options such as fast food or food from convenience stores or gas stations. This type of diet can be full of sugar, high-processed food and salt which can lead to serious medical and oral health problems, including:
- Heart failure
The nutrition and oral health connection
Feeding your body healthy and nutritious food is important not only for your physical health but also for your oral health.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) found that “if the diet does not supply enough of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients needed to support healthy tissues, malnutrition develops… Poor nutrition and unhealthy habits ‘can affect the development and integrity of the oral cavity as well as the progression of oral diseases.’”
The type of food you eat directly affects the health of your mouth. A diet of sugary and highly processed foods increases the risk of developing cavities. Untreated cavities can lead to many oral health problems including periodontal disease and dental erosion.
Oral health diseases can negatively impact your quality of life. Eating healthy and nutritious food items, such as vegetables, fruits and high-quality protein can lower the risk of developing oral health problems.
Celebrating ten years of giving
This year the Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation is celebrating ten years of giving back to Virginia communities. Supporting local food banks and nutritional community resources is just one example of how the Foundation impacts the Commonwealth. Throughout the last decade, the Foundation has contributed more than $6 million to community partners, funded the first fully-integrated medical and oral health curricula (partnering with the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine) and helped underserved communities across Virginia access safety-net providers.
Looking to the future, the Foundation recently launched two new community programs that focus on improving the oral and overall health of people living in Virginia. The first is the LIFT (Local Impact for Tomorrow) health and wellness initiative, delivering life-changing services to families who need them most. The second program, in partnership with Old Dominion University’s Gene W. Hirschfeld School of Dental Hygiene, focuses on growing and diversifying the dental workforce in the Commonwealth. The Dental Health Summer Institute provided underrepresented high school students the opportunity to learn about options available to them in the dental workforce.
“A healthy smile is a powerful thing, and these are just some of the initiatives, partnerships and programs we’ve enjoyed celebrating this year as part of the Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation’s 10th Anniversary,” said Raible. “As we commemorate 10 years of supporting Virginia’s dental safety net, programs boosting prevention, and initiatives to accelerate learning throughout the Commonwealth, we are eager to share our story with you.”
Learn more about the Delta Dental of Virginia Foundation at DeltaDentalVA.com/foundation.