A local university recently hosted an online panel focused on food insecurity in our community. I was startled to hear our food bank president share that currently 48% of their clients are “new hungry” – people who have never used services provided by a food bank before. The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic effect on households and more than ever before many families are uncertain about where their next meal is coming from.
The panelists encouraged those attending to help raise awareness of food insecurity by engaging in conversations with friends and family.
I thought I’d pass along that suggested framework. This Thanksgiving season, take some time to grab a few friends and discuss some or all of the questions below. There are no right or wrong answers – just a critical opportunity to share, listen and learn.
- Share about hunger in your community. In advance of your conversations, learn more about the facts in your county at map.feedingamerica.org. What did you already know? What surprised you?
- Introduce the concept of food insecurity. 1 in 8 people in the US doesn’t have access to enough food to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. They don’t know where their next meal is coming from. They are food insecure. If you were food insecure, where would you go to find help? How would you feel?
- Create a trusting, engaging space by discussing what role food plays in your lives. Apart from providing nutrition, food can play a key role in life events, meaningful relationships, and memories. How has food played a critical role in your life?
- Consider ways to take action. In the midst of social distancing, it can be difficult to provide hands-on service to others. Check with non-profits and faith communities about donations that would make a difference. Follow agencies on social media that are tackling hunger in the community and share their posts. Become an advocate for community gardens and other initiatives you learn about.
I was particularly inspired by the final panelist, a restaurant owner in the Fort Worth, TX area, who asked “What if there was a place in our community where everybody could eat regardless of ability to pay?” He introduced the concept of the community café – a movement across the country where all are welcome and patrons pay what they can or what they are inspired to. By ordering a carryout meal from his restaurant, I can support an entrepreneur, eat healthfully myself and also contribute something more so that those who are food insecure can enjoy that same healthy cooking in a welcoming environment.
After doing some research, I learned that there are over 50 community cafes throughout the US. Perhaps there is one near you offering carryout during COVID as well. Find locations at www.oneworldeverybodyeats.org.
Forever in Service,
Jan B. Titsworth