Monday, July 11, 2016

Can emergency food programs end hunger?

Although it was written in 1998, Janet Poppendieck's book, "Sweet Charity?  Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement," has much to say to us today.

The book describes food charities (food banks, food pantries, community kitchens) functioning as a moral safety valve which have allowed us as a society to accept the erosion of government's role in fighting poverty and hunger.

My favorite part of the book continues to be the chapter on "The Seven Deadly In's of Emergency Food."  The following are among the reasons that private, charitable, emergency food programs like food banks cannot solve the hunger problem:  

  • Insufficiency (there's not enough food), 
  • Inappropriateness (it's not the right food); 
  • nutritional Inadequacy (it's not healthy food), 
  • Instability (programs are hand-to-mouth relying on volunteers and uncertain funding streams),
  • Inaccessability (people in need can't get to the charities), 
  • Inefficiency (the can of food ends up costing several times its real cost from the time someone purchases it and donates it to a food drive until it gets to the person in need), and 
  • Indignity (bread lines in America today!).

Almost twenty years later and all of these things are still true.  And yet, we still have politicians calling for massive cuts in federal food programs "because the private charities can take care of it."  The private charities weren't meeting the need in 1998 when Ms. Poppendieck wrote her book and we have fallen further behind every year since.  

We can only solve the problem of hunger with bigger picture, systems change thinking.  That's what we are trying to do at GardenShare and what our slogan, "Healthy Food.  Healthy Farms.  Everybody Eats." speaks to.