Food@100% Food@100% means all our families are fed and food insecurity is history. We have solutions to hunger as we sure don’t lack food, just the political will, business engagement and technology.
When we begin to “Google it” for solutions:
Ending hunger in America: 21,800,000
Causes of hunger: 29,100,000
Task forces on ending hunger: 49,300,000
Businesses ending hunger: 27,200,000
Impact of technology on food security: 377,000,000
Amid the clutter, solutions await.
Eric likes to put lots of butter, salt and pepper on his rice. That will be his entire dinner each night for about a week. Like clockwork, Eric knows it’s the last week of the month when it’s rice. When burgers are served he knows it’s the start of a new month and pay day for mom and dad. In Eric’s neighborhood, end of month rice is normal and the kids even joke about it as each family has their own way of making it through. Eric’s friends might have boxed macaroni or cereal for a week of dinners. In some ways, they’re the lucky ones, having at least something to fill their stomachs before sleeping. And these are all kids living a mere blocks some of the most exclusive bistros in town, where patrons enjoy cuisine that’s simply “transcendent.”
WHAT DOES FOOD have to do with adverse childhood experiences and trauma? Everything. Every county has children and parents experiencing food insecurity and some have segments of the population reporting hunger at least once during the month. From a child welfare point of view, hunger can be viewed as neglect. We really wish to end hunger in order to go upstream to prevent children from entering the expensive child welfare system.
In this chapter we take on a very complicated system with its numerous challenges. We provide an overview of food support programs with all its solvable challenges. Get ready to be overwhelmed and also inspired. We will guide you through all the steps to put ideas into action.
With literally millions upon millions of people reading articles on food security and thousands of foundations, governmental and non-governmental organizations all focused for decades on ending food insecurity in the United States, why is hunger still with us across fifty states? Why are our students arriving at school hungry? Why do parents working full time not have enough for a month’s worth of groceries? Why do food banks run out of food?
We don’t mean to question our good-hearted leaders in political, academic and philanthropic circles, but what is the complete disconnect with those that claim to have answers and the actual implementation of solutions to ensure 100% of our residents are food secure? What are our morals, ethics and values that allow hunger to exist amid so much abundance?
What kind of society throws out more edible food than is needed by the most vulnerable families to avoid hunger? If we ever needed a public and private sector solution to food insecurity, this is the moment.
Some of us grew up with TV commercials asking that we send money for food to poverty-stricken counties across the globe to address hunger. Plenty of websites and organizations still ask. You may notice that there is no mention of why the elected leaders of these democratic countries are not feeding their people. Truly, why are we all not asking, “What is the root cause of hunger in the US and around the world?”
I was invited to present at the annual professional development meeting for all of the school bus drivers in our district. I did my normal introduction about the book Anna, Age Eight, the troubled life of Anna, her situation and why we needed to dig deeper into the root causes of child maltreatment, ACES and the social determinants of health. When I got to the section about the 10 sectors that 100% of people need access to in order to prevent ACEs, the first sector was food. Immediately a lady in the front row shot her hand up.
I called on her and she was nodding emphatically. “I carry food on the bus in the morning.” she said, “these kids are coming to school hungry.”
And very quickly several other bus drivers agreed and also spoke up about carrying food with them too. “Who provides this food?” I asked, somewhat naively thinking maybe someone provided food to the bus drivers to hand out. “We do,” they said.
The original lady spoke up again “I buy it myself, because if I don’t, no one else will and these kids need food,” She said. And I got similar reactions to all of the sectors.
I had done many community forums by that point, most to funders, philanthropists, executives, lawmakers, and other “usual suspects.” The reaction I typically got in these talks was that they had never made the connection between these sectors and child maltreatment and trauma. Not the bus drivers though. They already had it figured out. They saw these kids in their own environments every day, and they knew why they were struggling. And they took it upon themselves to try to address it in the ways they could.
With millions of our fellow Americans on food stamps, and food pantries being the fixtures of communities that they are, it seems inconceivable that kids in our country suffer from hunger. In fact, the reality on the ground has been, up to now, difficult to gauge when it comes to specific measuring of food insecurity in communities. Are lots of kids starving to death out there in the USA? An important question, but the real question is, “What does hunger look like?” Four children walking to school may not conjure up images of malnutrition to many of us. However, we don’t know how long it’s been since each had their last meal. What percentage of malnutrition is acceptable? Would you be okay not eating for 24 hours?
“Why can’t everyone buy their own food”?
Plenty of children live in households where money is so tight that parents have a hard time picking up where the equivalent of food stamps leave off. (Your state student surveys funded by the CDC on health risks will most likely tell you how many kids are experiencing hunger monthly, and this is a data point every ACEs prevention program needs to be on top of.) That can translate into skipping meals or eating poorly balanced meals. And even if there’s a food pantry that stands ready to help, it’s not guaranteed that mom or dad will have the logistical capacity to pick up the groceries.
Meanwhile, we (as in markets) throw away large percentages of our food due to spoilage or because it didn’t look quite appetizing though it was perfectly healthy. Luckily, there are solutions to this particular logistical problem you can implement in your county.
We ask what is the root cause of hunger and food insecurity?
Click on the icons on the image to learn about the wide range of causes of hunger and food insecurity.
With data from the Resilient Community Experience Survey (See Appendices) and other surveying, you have a good idea about where in your county food insecurity exists and why. While global, national and state data on hunger is interesting (and deeply troubling), the real data that informs your work are generated by your 100% Community initiative and dives deep into your local communities within your county borders. You may find that hunger is seasonal, more students reporting it during summer when not in school. Then again, you may be surprised by your survey results and learn that a challenge is far bigger or smaller or more localized than originally thought.