When we think of the recent economic hardships that have directly impacted the United States and the world, we think of foreclosures, unemployment, debt and evictions, but through this we fail to see the detrimental effects the financial crisis has had on food security. In 1996, the World Food Summit defined food security as:
“a situation in which all households have both physical and economic access to adequate food for all members, and where households are not at a risk of losing such access. There are three dimensions implicit in this definition: availability, stability, and access. Availability means that, on average, sufficient food supplies must be on hand to meet consumption needs. Stability refers to minimizing the probability that in difficult years or seasons, food consumption might fall below the critical minimum. Access draws attention to the fact that people can go hungry in the midst of plenty because they do not have the resources to produce or purchase the food they need.”
Food insecurity can be caused by anything from migration to famine. If crops fail due to drought or conflict or disaster, those who had previously relied on them must turn to purchasing their food. This creates increased demand and lower supply, which ultimately pushes prices up. For those who base their income off of the success and profit of the crops, they now have nothing to trade. With less money it becomes harder to feed livestock, decreasing their nutritional value and survival rate. As the price of food continues to skyrocket, people are forced to eat less and eat foods of little nutritional value because they are cheaper. As this continues to happen, many become malnourished and sometimes even ill. In conjunction with the cost of medical attention and schooling, many people in the United States and in other countries are forced to remove food as their financial priority. The cycle keeps repeating itself, and gets continuously worse. Hunger and food insecurity are the world’s top health risks, but there are many measures that can be taken to drastically lower this statistic.
In 1983, the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Act was put into place in the United States, calling for the formation of grants to cover the costs of transporting, storing and distributing food to emergency feeding organizations, meaning soup kitchens and food banks. Although this Act had positive intentions and worked for the goal of food security, its means of combating the issue had numerous flaws. Take food banks for example, their success rides on the willingness of others to put their time and money into stock and distribution from the food bank. The hard economic times make it more difficult for those to provide proper donations to supply these banks like they once did. The majority of individuals who donate food to banks give away food that they don’t use, don’t want, or is expired. Most of the items these banks receive are non-perishable, eliminating fresh produce, meats, and dairy products. This makes it harder to serve those in the community who need food assistance with items full of protein and nutrition. After the food bank collects these items, they are usually sent to (but are not limited to) soup kitchens, food pantries, schools, orphanages and schools.
For most people in the United States, when food is low at one’s house ,all it signifies is a trip to the local market or grocery store is in the near future, but for those without access to these luxuries or the money to afford the rising cost of food, they must survive off of government subsidized plans, which is not an easy task. Food distribution and assistance provides a great deal of short term help, but breaking the cycle requires a vast amount of investment. Rebuilding communities to be able to feed themselves with a substantial income provides them with long term stability and resilience. With the proper supplies, education, tools, and irrigation systems, food insecurity along with hunger can be easily decreased. In addition, providing good health care to communities makes them less susceptible to be affected by such hard times. Funding would also provide the livestock that people live off of with the proper food, nutrition, and healthcare they need to provide safe meals for those who consume products from them. Making communities stronger makes it easier for them to cope when hardships strike.
- The Rate of Food Insecurity is 12.7% and the Rate of Children’s Food Insecurity is 18.9%.
- The Poverty Rate is 8.7% and the Children’s Poverty Rate is 10%.
(Statistic from 2009, percents have since increased)
So ask yourself, how do you give back to help your neighbors in this community? Do you go out of your way to purchase healthful foods at the supermarket to donate to local food banks and drives? Living in Tolland County you may feel like these changes in food supply have no effect on our food security, but for many they do. So next time you want to find a reputable charity to donate to that will better the lives of many or just help those locally around you, think of food security. Instead of donating your unhealthy, undesirable or expired food, add a few healthy items to your grocery cart to nourish those who need it. We fail to realize that the food we donate is put directly in the hands of another human being, and that is what they must survive off of. Just because something is high in calories or will provide someone with a “full” feeling doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have harmful effects on them. To ensure the wellbeing of someone who cannot ensure their own, be sure to provide healthful foods to those with limited financial resources to supplement their restricted choices with healthy alternatives.
Find Food Banks in CT to Donate to: http://feedingamerica.org/foodbank-results.aspx?state=CT
Volunteer & Donate to a Local Soup Kitchen (Located in Willimantic, CT): http://www.covenantsoupkitchen.org/
Donate to Local Food Drives or Start Your Own Healthy Food Drive (A List of Healthy Donations): http://www.hungernwnc.org/donate-food/Healthy_Bag%5B1%5D.pdf
Donate to Feeding America to Combat Hunger: http://feedingamerica.org/