Millions of American adults struggle with hunger every day, many of them innocent children. Over 12 million American youth reside in homes where food insecurity makes up a sizable worry. And with summer on the way, many of these kids will lose access to one of their few reliable food resources — free school lunch.
Much of what Americans typically consume contains high levels of fat and calories, spurring the obesity epidemic. Healthy, low-calorie foods can cost far more than their fattening, sodium-laden counterparts. Fortunately, with the advent of healthy eating movements like the farm-to-table movement, people are starting to try to find ways to get healthier food in the tummies of more Americans. Two nonprofits recently came together to offer a solution for keeping more families in the U.S. fed better.
The West Virginia Program
Officials from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services recently awarded the Kanawha Institute for Social Research and Action (KISRA) a grant of $800,000. The money allows KISRA to partner with Pollen8, Inc. This funding will permit the building of a farm-to-table food enterprise to distribute products to those in need.
In addition to providing healthier food, the center intends to offer livable wages to those transitioning back into society after battling substance abuse disorders. The jobs primarily fall to 42 fortunate individuals currently receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits for those needing support with basic food and shelter.
Many citizens of West Virginia live in poverty. Nearly a fifth of all adults live below the poverty line, and one out of every four children goes to bed hungry.
Furthermore, the opioid crisis has ravaged the state, leading to many arrests. While federal prosecutors recently arrested 60 health care providers in the Appalachian region for using nefarious means to prescribe such drugs to unwary patients, the move doesn’t repair the pain and suffering of those who have lost their lives. Nor does it give those incarcerated for opioid abuse their pre-addiction lives back.
The grant potentially will alleviate some of the suffering the crisis has caused. Ideally, meaningful lives and careers that pay them living wages will reduce recidivism.
Hunger Is a Growing National Problem
Many people mistakenly believe if obesity is at epidemic levels, everyone in the U.S. must have adequate supplies of food. In reality, nothing is further from the truth.
Much of what Americans consider food contains little, if any, nutritional value. Recently, one school district came under fire for providing only cold jelly sandwiches for children who have outstanding lunch money balances. A bag of salad often costs more than a bag of chips at the grocery store.
Fast food may contain high levels of calories, but remains devoid of nutrient value. And as people become more aware, they turn to more nutritious food sources when they can afford them.
Complicating that issue, though, remains the fact that businesses love to use the latest buzzwords to peddle their wares. Recently, some restaurants have come under fire for using terminology such as “farm-to-table” to imply diners are eating something healthier than it is. Programs such as the West Virginia initiative can help keep larger companies honest and provide more accountability.
In reality, one out of every six Americans suffers from food insecurity, which is the feeling of not knowing what they will have to eat next or when. And not all who struggle with hunger live in rural areas or the city. Hunger causes empty bellies in the suburbs, too.
Ending World Hunger for Good
Human beings possess the power to solve the problem of hunger. The planet produces adequate resources for all. However, not everyone lives in an area where growing crops comes easily.
One way humans can combat hunger involves switching to more sustainable practices such as using arable land for crops, not cows. Much of the Amazon rainforest, for example, falls each year due to cattle ranching. Once these areas have gone, humans will never be able to replace the unique plants of the area and their potential cures.
Urban farming, or using rooftops for growing crops, can expand food accessibility in cities. As trees perish, replacing them with fruit trees in parks can provide food to homeless populations. And farm-to-table cooperatives such as the one in West Virginia can expand access to healthier foods.
A Well-Fed World
Human beings possess everything necessary to make sure no one, young or old, goes to bed hungry at night. By using our resources more wisely and following the lead of those who have made eliminating hunger their priority, we can make sure everyone has enough to eat.