I recently traveled to Houston, Texas for a Hunger Free America national conference. Hunger Free America is a not for profit organization building a bold, grass-roots, non-partisan membership movement in all 50 states. Their goal is to enact the policies and programs necessary to end domestic hunger, and ensure that all Americans have access to nutritious food.
Food insecurity is a national problem that harms one in six Americans and one in five children. There are 48 million Americans and 15 million children who live in a household that can’t afford food. Houston Food Bank offers many services to the community from classes on nutrition education, an emergency food pantry, helping folks sign up for SNAP, plus programs like Backpack Buddy which offers meals to children for the weekend and summer meal program sites.
National conferences allow us to share the work we’ve been doing to reduce hunger in our communities, and to share ideas about what we can implement to educate our communities on the value of nutritious food. We spent most of our time at the Houston Food Bank, which is the largest food bank in the nation. The facility is clean, efficient, and an important entity for Houston residents.
While there, I had an opportunity to volunteer in the warehouse preparing meal boxes for senior citizens. In two and a half hours we prepared 583 boxes, which equates to 15,158 meals. The danger in doing this work though is that we get caught up in volunteerism and how good it makes us feel to feed the hungry but the reality is that food banks and food pantries will not end hunger. They are a Band-Aid and can be likened to bucket brigades.
Joel Berg, head of the NYC Coalition Against Hunger points out, “Entire communities turned out to fight a fire by handing buckets of water down the line. It was satisfying work, it was hands-on, but it didn’t work. Buildings burned down because it was only getting about 60 gallons of water onto the fire. Modern fire-fighting equipment, purchased with public money, operated by people with expertise who are paid with tax dollars, can pour thousands of gallons of water onto a fire. Which would you rather have if it were your house?”.
While we all know the answer to that question the answer to ending hunger is not just limited to food pantries and soup kitchens. One way to increase food security is to grow your own, and in Price Hill there are six community gardens total with an additional garden coming soon. Price Hill Will also has a program called Grow It Forward Gardens. Much like it sounds, it’s a pay it forward incentive for folks to obtain a free garden bed and in exchange they help three others with a garden of their own. By thinking creatively and spreading knowledge about growing more of our own food, we can increase food security in Price Hill and beyond!