Five Ways to Impact Food Insecurity in Your CommunityShare
It’s estimated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that one in eight Americans can be defined as food insecure, meaning they lack consistent access to food that is needed for an active, healthy lifestyle. With nearly 40 million Americans across the country struggling, it can seem like an insurmountable challenge for one person to tackle and make a difference.
Luckily, there are things you can do on a local, community level to impact food insecurity. From hosting a food drive to finding voucher programs for farmers markets, here are a few ways you can help your community find better access to reliable and healthy meals. (And if you have a project in mind and need seed money, check out Cultivate Community, a competition from the Global Food Challenge).
1. Start talking about food insecurity.
While the truths about food insecurity are relatively universal, every community’s specifics are unique. Some neighborhoods may benefit from a community garden, but others may be better served by ensuring the local food pantry is adequately stocked with healthy food. Before diving into any project, take the time to connect with thought leaders in your area to truly understand your community’s needs. You can find these individuals by reaching out to your local university or finding individuals who work on a program specifically targeting food insecurity.
2. Connect with a community garden (or start your own).
The benefits of community gardens are well known: they beautify empty, unused lots, they provide educational opportunities and they unite communities in a common goal. In addition, many community gardens donate excess produce directly to food pantries as a way to keep shelves stocked with fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables. To get involved with a community garden near you or to submit your community garden to the comprehensive list, visit the American Community Gardening Association.
3. Host a food drive – with options for cash donations.
According to a 2014 study conducted by Feeding America, one out of every seven Americans relies on food banks to help feed their families, which is why it’s important to keep them stocked and ready. Food drives are a reliable and impactful way to meet this goal. Most people have participated in a food drive at one point or another, whether it was in school or through work. While collecting nonperishable items is always needed, it’s also important to give participants options for how they can contribute. Many people are forgetful and may leave cans of soup and even cash at home.
One way to bring this initiative into the 21st century: provide an electronic money transfer account like Venmo or Cash App where people can donate funds. This gives individuals flexibility in how they can contribute – and will make your food drive even more impactful.
4. Explore farm-to-school lunch programs.
Thirty million U.S. students rely on the national school lunch program, according to the USDA. For many children, the lunch they receive during school may be their only guaranteed meal for the day. In many parts of the country, the food being served is often frozen and canned, filling but in lacking produce like fresh fruits and vegetables because it can be expensive to procure.
School lunch programs across the country are partnering with local farms to keep a steady and reliable source of fresh produce for students. Some school districts even offer educational opportunities like school gardens, cooking lessons and field trips to area farms. Similar programs are also on the rise on college campuses, with student groups or clubs growing fresh produce for campus dining halls.
5. Distribute information on coupons for farmers markets.
No matter how you slice it or dice it, fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive. In addition to lack of reliable access, cost can be a huge contributing factor to food insecurity. Farmers markets are often listed as a way to provide access to local fruits and veggies, but are still prohibitively expensive depending on the community.
Many people qualify for vouchers or coupons for farmers markets but may not know it. Another simple way to help families access fresh food is by distributing information on existing programs. This way, merchants receive additional business and income, and area families can access the freshest – and most local – food to help them stay healthy and full.
In addition to the five initiatives above, another big way you can fight food insecurity is by voting for politicians – especially in state and municipal offices – who make this issue a key part of their platform. Things like raising the minimum wage and supporting measures that require corner stores to stock a certain percentage of fresh fruit and vegetables are important steps communities can take to make food readily available.
So, how are you making a difference in your community? Submit your local initiative to Cultivate Community, a competition from the Global Food Challenge, for a chance to see your idea come to life and impact food insecurity locally. Land O’Lakes will even foot the bill! Learn more here.
© 2019 Land O’Lakes, Inc.