Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash
article by Marisa D. Aceves
In a matter of months, our world has changed. Job opportunities are shrinking, and once-profitable food, hospitality, and entertainment industries have almost collapsed. Edison Research Poll discovered that after the announcement of the Covid-19 pandemic, 44% of Americans fear they will not be able to afford food. Numbers are even higher, they say, for people earning less than $50,000 like gig workers and those newly unemployed. (Fields, 2020) May Lynn Tan, Assistant Deputy Director for E4 and manager of several food assistance initiatives, recognizes the immediate threat that rapid and consistent unemployment has on the general population. Households with children, older adults, and people with disabilities are especially vulnerable because closed schools, daycare centers, and senior centers have eliminated a regular source of meals. (Tan, 2020) Learning to become self-sufficient, and provide your family with a sustainable, steady food supply, especially during difficult times, is critical. Now is the time to work together to support our communities with valuable resources focused on food recovery, a new, earth-friendly method of food production, and reliable methods of distribution.
Here are some creative, community-based ways you can improve food insecurity in your area.
1. Grow Your Food
The National Gardening Association (NGA) says that 35 percent of families in the United States are growing food at home or in a shared community garden. This report indicates that more people of all ages, especially young people, are learning to grow their food. (Scatterday, 2017)
Growing food for the first time can be intimidating, but it will improve your health, lessen your carbon footprint, and save you money.Commercial farming employs a lot of pesticides and insecticides that the EPA considers carcinogenic. Gardening allows you to control what you apply to your produce. Even if you lack a green thumb, there are plenty of helpful tutorials online to guide you through the process. You’ll learn which vegetables grow well in your area, tips on watering, fertilizing, and harvesting. In addition to improving the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, gardening has the added benefit of helping you get extra exercise throughout the day.
2. Create Community Gardens in Urban Spaces and Food Deserts
While growth in gardening is spectacular, Mike Metallo, President, and CEO of the NGA said that many people lack access to nutritious food regularly. Millions of children in America go hungry. The frequent occurrence of food deserts is a contributing factor to obesity and malnutrition. (Scatterday, 2017)
Urban agriculture has a unique solution for this ongoing challenge. It proposes that communities raise money to help people in urban areas use vacant lots to grow food for the neighborhood. For example, the Vacant Lot toolkit, located in Pittsburgh, helps residents legally access empty lots to grow food, flowers, and rain gardens. Bjorn Low, leader of a grow-your-own-food-movement, co-founded Edible Garden City to address food security hardships in Singapore. (Ashoka, 2018)
Food deserts, where residents have little to no access to grocery stores or healthy food alternatives, can apply the same lot programs as urban centers. Funding from Non-profits will provide the money needed to make these programs a reality.
3. Increase the Accessibility Of Nutritious Food In Charitable And Food Assistance Programs
Across the country, food assistance programs provide a much-needed food source for families living below or at the poverty level. Wealthier members of your state or community could make frequent donations to your local food bank or other charitable organizations that handle food service. For example, The Texas Food Bank, located near San Antonio, Texas, provides food for San Antonio residents and surrounding counties. They have gardens for growing fresh vegetables, but also receive many donations from individuals and families. A dependable flow of volunteers helps them to serve counties outside the city.
4. Know the Food Insecure Areas In Your State
Each state and county must have a map or report of all the food insecure areas. Volunteers, businesses, and state employees can create targeted programs to help people meet their needs. Not all regions will require the same types of foods or the same amount of assistance. Making weekly, monthly, and annual reports to determine the issues that arise due to job instability, health concerns, and unforeseen economic conditions will benefit struggling community members.
5. Understand How Climate Change Affects The Type Of Food That Grows Well In Your Area
Jason Clay, the senior vice president of market transformation for WWF, predicts that in the short-term, the concentration will be on climate-smart agriculture. However, in 10 to 20 years, the focus will switch to rotating crops. (Gould, 2014)
Be aware of the type of crops that grow well in your areas or zones. Planting fruits or vegetables that fail to thrive in your area could result in disaster. The successful growth and distribution of plants are reliant on the understanding of how climate change affects native crops. The hardiest and most pest-resistant are the ones you need to focus on cultivating.
6. Minimize Food Waste
Create or give to programs that support distributing surplus food from businesses or schools to local shelters and food distribution centers. Grocery stores in your area could donate canned fruits, vegetables, and box meals to charities. Schools could get permission from the local government to use extra food to create meals for hungry children and adults living within the school district.
7. Produce Local Food Donation Drives And Fund Raisers
Your neighborhood or community could raise money each month to combat state hunger issues. Food donation drives during the summer, Thanksgiving, and Christmas would help to alleviate suffering during peak holidays, a time when people are already more likely to give. Early fall, when children are returning to school, is also a perfect time to start a fundraiser or donation drive. Teachers and administrators could reach out to parents that are having difficulty feeding their families and make a private list.
8. Create Programs That Teach Sustainable Foraging and Eating Wild
Foraging is the practice of gathering edible plant species where you live.
These plants, when correctly identified and harvested, can be added to savory salads, soups, stews, and any other dish you can imagine. Wild food also has more essential minerals and vitamins. If you’re looking for creative ways to get exercise, foraging is the perfect combination of hiking and gardening. To ensure optimum health, find a mentor to teach you which plants are safe for consumption and which ones to avoid.
Here are some excellent books on the subject that you can acquire from popular online or local booksellers.
Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine
The Scout’s Guide to Wild Edibles: Learn How to Forage, Prepare & Eat 40 Wild Foods
The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat
In addition to foraging, you can also learn to eat wild. Eating Wild is the process of getting whole nutrition from modern food by choosing animal food sources that are 100% grass-fed. These types of foods help to increase health and fight disease. Buying from farmers’ markets and learning to select wholesome foods raised by local farmers that are pesticide-free is necessary for improving peoples’ overall nutrition as well as the environment. Providing local farms dedicated to safe food production and humane treatment of animals with tax breaks can ease the rising cost of food at your grocery store.
9. Start A Local Heirloom Seed Bank
Invite mentors, volunteers, and families in need to participate in a program focused on preserving heirloom seeds. Food insecure families, as well as other members in your area, could use these seeds to help grow healthy, nutrition-packed fruits and vegetables for themselves and their community. Before you preserve seed varieties, make sure you know whether or not the plant is a hybrid or an open-pollinated variety. Only open-pollinated or heirloom varieties can continue to produce crops for generations.
Here are a few informative websites and books to help you get started.
Start Your Own Heirloom Seed Vault: http://www.therealfarmhouse.com/start-your-own-heirloom-seed-vault/
Personal Seed Bank: https://faithfulfarmwife.com/personal-seed-bank/
How To Organize A Community Seed Bank: https://www.seedsavers.org/site/pdf/Start-Seed-Bank.pdf
The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds: 322 Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, Flowers, Trees, and Shrubs
Heirloom Seed Saving Handbook: Your Personal Survival Seed Bank
While you may not have all the answers to eliminating food insecurity, you can make a concerted effort to tackle the serious issues that surround it. Steady progress and a healthy amount of persistence will help you and your community to address ongoing setbacks in the fight to improve the environment and end world hunger. Learning about the root causes of crop failure and lack of adequate nutrition and distribution will aid in producing a wholesome food supply.
Bibliographic Citations For Sustainable Foods Article
Tan, May Lynn. “Food security during a pandemic and beyond: how research can support action.”Evidence For Action, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 23 April 2020, https://evidenceforaction.org/food-security-during-pandemic-and-beyond-how-research-can-support-action.
Fields, Samantha. “44 % Of Americans Fear They Won’t Be Able to Afford Food, Poll Finds.”Marketplace, American Public Media, 7 May 2020, www.marketplace.org/2020/05/07/44-of-americans-fear-they-wont-be-able-to-afford-food-poll-finds/.
Scatterday, Allysan. “Gardening Boom: 1 in 3 American Households Grow Food.”Farmer Foodshare, Farmer Foodshare, 15, June 2017, www.farmerfoodshare.org/farmer-foodshare/2017/6/15/gardening-boom-1-in-3-american-households-grow-food .
Ashoka. “Bjorn Low – Edible Garden City: Ashoka: Everyone a Changemaker.”Ashoka, Ashoka, 18, June 2020, www.ashoka.org/en-us/story/bjorn-low-edible-garden-city
Gould Hannah. “10 things you need to know about sustainable agriculture.”The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 1, July 2014, www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/food-blog/sustainable-agriculture-10-things-climate-change