Food insecurity - what can be done?
Ways we can address food insecurity?
March 14, 2018 - Author: Joseph Bixler, Michigan State University Extension
The broad topic of food insecurity has come to the public forefront over the last decade. Food insecurity can be identified by an individual’s access to limited quality, variety or desirability of diet. Generally speaking, it is the lack of access to affordable, healthy, nutrient-rich, fresh foods and it may help one understand the link between hunger and food security. You may have heard the term “food deserts”. Food deserts can be found anywhere that lacks consistent access to quality fresh food; be it in urban or rural settings. Access can be affected by many different variables. According to the USDA website regarding access, these variables include, but are not limited to access to transportation, family income and distance from stores or the number of stores in a given neighborhood.
The purpose of this article is to familiarize with the concept of food insecurity and the potential options communities may have to address the broader issue. Future articles will describe some efforts to address food insecurity in more detail. First, some of the potential initiatives currently being used in communities to combat food insecurity.
- Mobile farm market trucks – Vehicles loaded with fresh fruits and vegetable from a local source and setup in areas where consistent access to fresh produce is not available due to transportation issues or other obstacles. In St. Clair County, the Community Foundation is sponsoring a mobile food truck project.
- Food rescue programs divert food that would otherwise be thrown away to people who can make use of it. According to the USDA report on the Emergency Food Assistance System, “The food rescue organizations specialize in perishable food including gleanings from farmers’ fields and leftovers from food service operations.”
- Food Waste Programs – It is estimated that 40 percent of our uneaten food ends up in landfills as reported by the First Food organization. That proportion rises to 50 percent when fresh produce is included. Efforts to combat this waste has become important in some communities.
- Food Giveaways – Organizations and institutions in communities have been relying on large scale food giveaways for many years. One such ministry in Cass City, Michigan called Revive Ministries offers a monthly giveaway.
- Farm to Table Programs – Fresh produce and other items accessed by those who are food insecure. These programs take the form of community or school gardens where individual can work in and glean food to meet their needs.
- Summer Feeding Programs – USDA program that feeds children at various community locations where children are during the non-school summer months.
Future articles will explore some of these programs and projects in more detail. In the meantime, please consider educating yourself about what is going on in your community to assist with the food insecurity problem and how you may get involved.