Two miles isn’t too far to march for a worthy cause, as people are prone to do in the nation’s capital. But it is a long way to walk for groceries.
That’s the impression organizers of a recent Grocery Walkin Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood wanted to invoke when they gathered nearly 500 people to walk that far — wielding carrots and “food justice” signs — in the latest effort to address the intractable problem of food deserts. More than half of the participants were residents who live in or near the District’s Ward 8, where a Giant Foods store is the only full-service grocer serving 70,000 residents, leaving fresh, affordable foods out of reach for many.
Nearly 40 million Americans live in communities with these so-called grocery gaps, where it is easier for people to buy grape soda than a handful of grapes, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Across the United States, more than one out of every 10 people is “food insecure,” which means they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. In Trinity County, a sparsely populated area in northwestern California, that number is closer to one in five.
Jeff England, director of the Trinity County Food Bank, is trying to change that.
The sun has barely come up in the tiny town of Douglas City, Calif. England and two other men are almost done packing a couple of trucks with food.
“We’re loaded to the gills,” he says, pointing to produce like cabbage, white onions and sweet potatoes, along with packaged and canned foods.
One in eight Americans — 42 million people — still struggles to get enough to eat. And while that number has been going down recently, hunger appears to be getting worse in some economically distressed areas, especially in rural communities.
Food banks that serve these areas are also feeling the squeeze, as surplus food supplies dwindle but the lines of people seeking help remain long.
As a result, food banks such as Feeding America Southwest Virginia are trying to shorten those lines by doing more to address the root causes of hunger, such as poverty, unemployment and bad health.
“Why? Because we can’t afford to continue to feed individuals on this ongoing basis, the resources that it takes to do that. We’d much rather have less individuals come into our programs,” says Pamela Irvine, the food bank’s president and CEO.
Kara Dethlefsen lined up early on a recent morning for the food pantry at the Camp Pendleton Marine Base near San Diego. She and her husband, both active-duty Marines, took turns holding their 4-month-old daughter.
“We most like to get the avocados, lemons, some vegetables to cook up,” says Dethlefsen, 27, who first heard about the pantry from an on-base nurse after giving birth.
“This probably saves us anywhere from $100-300 each time we come,” she says. That’s key for her young family. Her husband is getting ready to transition to civilian life after five years of military service, and they’re not sure what financial challenges that could bring.
Indigenous communities create solutions to food insecurity…
Andromeda Na’lniitr’e’sdvm Lopez grew up on canned meat, canned juice, white flour, and evaporated milk. It was common fare for her tribe, the Tolowa Dee-ni’. But at 21, Lopez had a diabetes scare while pregnant and knew her diet had to change…In almost any Native American community, you’ll find people like Lopez struggling with similar, systemic problems. One-in-four live in poverty, according to census data. Native Americans are twice as likely as white people to lack access to safe, healthy foods — ultimately leading to obesity and diabetes…That’s why on Wednesday afternoons in the summer, Lopez drives five miles down a two-lane highway, past cow pastures and lily fields, to a garden planted on tribal land in the town of Smith River, California.
In Madrid, a restaurant feeds over 100 people in need nightly…
On a frigid winter night, a man wearing two coats shuffles into a brightly lit brick restaurant in downtown Madrid. Staff greet him warmly; he’s been here many times. The maître d’ stamps his ID card, and the hungry man selects a table with a red tablecloth, under a big brass chandelier.
The man, Luis Gallardo, is homeless — and so are all the diners, every night, at the city’s Robin Hood restaurant. Its mission is to charge the rich and feed the poor. Paying customers at breakfast and lunch foot the bill for the restaurant to serve dinner to homeless people, free of charge.
When Lanarion Norwood Jr. was 9 years old, he opened his family’s refrigerator to find it almost empty. His grandmother, unemployed because of disability, had run out of food for the month. So Norwood did what many young children adamantly resist: He went to bed early. Sleeping, he reasoned, would help him suppress hunger, and he knew the next day he could eat at his Atlanta school.
That memory is one of Norwood’s earliest recollections of being hungry, but not his last. As a teenager, his food concerns grew with his appetite. “I would plan out my meal[s],” Norwood says, now a freshman at Morehouse College in Atlanta. “I knew I could eat breakfast and lunch at school and I could eat again later,
It’s a challenge making sure that low-income children who get free- and reduced-priced meals during the school year continue to get fed during the summer months.
Government meal programs served 3.8 million children on an average summer day last year — far fewer than the 22 million children who got subsidized meals during the school year.
Now, the Obama administration wants to change that. The president will propose in his 2017 budget next month that families who qualify for subsidized school meals be given a special electronic benefits card that will allow them to buy an additional $45 in groceries per child each month when school is out.
In the United States, almost half of all food is wasted and one in six people are food insecure. At the same time, there are amazing food rescue organizations popping up all over the U.S. to recover extra (would-be wasted) food for those in need. And while most food rescue organizations focus on feeding those in need, Food Shift, out of Oakland, California aims to change the game. With their upcoming Alameda Kitchen project, Food Shift aims to also provide new jobs and job training to an area that badly needs it.
Food Shift recognizes that food rescue, which is mostly supported by volunteers, needs better infrastructure (trucks, cold storage and the like) to be sustainable. The need for better infrastructure is something Food Shift knows from its day to day work recovering 21,000 pounds of surplus food a month in Oakland and Berkeley, California. Something that became even more apparent with its recent completion of the ground-breaking food recovery mapping report for Santa Clara County, California.
Although Santa Clara is located in the very wealthy Silicon Valley, one in four adults and one in three children are food insecure in the county. Needless to say, Food Shift found that the food recovery system in Santa Clara needs a lot of work. And, in addition to infrastructure needs, “food recovery is much more complicated than people think” says Food Shift’s Executive Director Dana Frasz.
An estimated 7.9 million kids in the U.S. live in “food-insecure” households. This means there’s not always enough to eat at home.
But when these kids go to the doctor for a check-up, or a well-child visit, the signs of malnutrition are not always apparent. So pediatricians say it’s time to start asking about it.
Kids and parents often shy away from talking about their struggles. “They’re embarrassed, or they don’t think the doctor will care,” says pediatrician Sarah Jane Schwarzenberg of the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.