By Jim Baldwin
September is Hunger Action Month nationwide and as a Feeding America food bank, Community Food Share is joining food banks across the country in recognizing that hunger and food insecurity in our communities is a year-round challenge.
It is easy to become “hunger-blind” in our community when all around us we see affluence and healthy people. Who would ever think that there is a serious hunger problem here and that thousands of families worry daily about where their next meal will come from? Indeed, poverty, food insecurity, and hunger are invisible in a suburban community like ours. So for us at Community Food Share this is also Hunger Awareness Month. There can be no appreciable action without community awareness first.
But, what does hunger look like in an industrial country such as ours? “To witness hunger in America today is to enter a twilight zone where refrigerators are so frequently bare of all but mustard and ketchup that it provokes no remark, inspires no embarrassment,” as quoted from a recent National Geographic article entitled, “The New Face of Hunger.” And then there is the paradox of hunger and obesity, both of which can and do exist at the same time. Those who live on low incomes, well below what is considered to be an affordable living wage in our area, make continual choices daily between paying the rent, paying for gas to get to a job, and/or paying medical bills and buying food.
The paradox and the dilemma come in when it is clear that fast and low nutritious foods are filling and much less expensive than healthy foods, especially fresh produce. Options are then determined by the limited dollars available. The choices are obvious and inevitable — a hungry child must be fed.
An effective and robust basic needs “safety net partnership” is at work in our community, and has been for many years. It is made up of the many excellent nonprofits that provide food assistance in varying ways: Food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, emergency food box programs, residential treatment homes and multi-service agencies, which address the many challenges of those living in poverty — housing, utilities, and food.
The challenge to end hunger and food insecurity in our midst is a daunting one, and easily classified as just an aspirational goal, never to be accomplished — something somewhere up in the clouds. The “safety net partnership” would heartily disagree. We work together to meet the immediate and emergency needs of those living with food insecurity while using this experience to identify the many root causes of hunger: poverty, lack of an affordable living wage, inadequate education and work skills, unemployment and language barriers, to name few.
The powerful and relentless collaboration of all, including the generous, ongoing support of our community, underscores a commitment to ending hunger that translates into action. The problems are many, challenging, and seemingly impossible to solve, yet a hunger-free community is an achievable goal. As we enter this rich season of harvest we remain aware that not all share in its bounty; but we also remain committed to ensuring that everyone has enough affordable and nutritious food to promote a healthy lifestyle and participate productively in our community.
Jim Baldwin announced he is retiring as CEO of Community Food Share last week, after leading the food bank for 14 years. Thank you for your service, Jim.