During the 1928 Presidential campaign Herbert Hoover promised a chicken in every pot. Yet just months after his victory the stock market crashed and America was plunged into The Great Depression.
Certainly that was no fault of Hoover’s, but as a nation, we have since experienced many an ebb and flow in our economy, and 86 years after his famous words were spoken, we’ve sometimes found ourselves still searching for those chickens!
According to Feeding America (2013) 49.1 million people lived in food insecure households. That’s 14% of all the homes in our country. This includes 33.3 million adults and 15.8 million children. What is the opposite of “food insecure?” The United States Department of Agriculture calls it Food Security and defines it as: Access by all people, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life; It is the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods and an ability to acquire this food in socially acceptable ways. (Food Bank Council of Michigan 2012)
It is estimated that we have over 40,000 food pantries and 6,000 soup kitchens in our country and that 62% of our kids under 18 receive federally funded school breakfasts and lunches. Also, the number of those participating in the food stamp and WIC programs is on the rise.
Are these programs achieving the objectives outlined by the US Dept. of Agriculture? “Access by all people, at all times, to enough food.” We certainly have enough food in this country but how do we get our hands on it for distribution? And do those that need it know where it is and how to get it?
Does the available food help provide for an active, healthy life-style based on proper nutrition and safety? Food pantries generally stock non-perishables whereas soup kitchens serve “home cooked” foods and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Having just one or the other can leave wide gaps in nutrition. How do we remedy this?
Are those needing help with food security able to obtain it with dignity? This can be a touchy subject. The face of hunger has changed over the years. Employers restructure, send work elsewhere, lay off their employees and cut hours. Those who never dreamed of being in need of assistance find themselves caught between the mortgage and the grocery store.
Building partnerships across public and private sectors has certainly helped. And the many faith-based food pantries and soup kitchens continue to do their part. Volunteers have devoted themselves to the issue of hunger in America and have advocated to meet this growing need, head-on, locally and through legislation. Yet people are still hungry.
Do we truly have enough nutritionally sound food that is easily accessed with dignity? Do we have enough programs to empower our citizens with knowledge of nutrition, healthy meal planning and ways to stretch their food dollar? These are some questions I’d like to address in weeks to come as we welcome another autumn and look toward winter; when some will make the tough decision to pay for heat rather than groceries. And those of us interested in Food Security and its advocacy press toward that chicken in every pot and another one in the fridge!