Hunger exists in the United States. The reason is poverty. The root cause of poverty is powerlessness. Whyhunger uses the titled question as an approach to the solution by connecting communities to resources, while providing immediate access to nutritious emergency food. Bill Ayres, the executive director, co-founded WhyHunger thirty-five years ago to address the urgent need for food by establishing a food hotline and later included a multi-issued platform to build power and self-reliance in impoverished communities in the United States and worldwide. Why is there hunger in a world that can feed itself and how can we solve it? Here are ten things you can do to tackle the root causes of hunger and support long-term solutions at home and abroad.
1. Increase wages for food and farm workers. Farm workers, food processors and restaurant workers are among the most poorly paid in the country—they need a living wage, benefits, protection from wage theft, better working conditions and effective unions. Join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in their Campaign for Fair Food and support the Food Chain Workers’ Alliance.
2. Learn about climate change. Climate change has already caused major disasters in food production through increasingly extreme and erratic weather patterns. Experts estimate that the food system, which is run by fossil fuels, contributes up to half of all greenhouse gas emissions. Read our explanation on the connection.
3. Make our nation healthy again. As a country we spend billions of dollars in healthcare-related costs on preventable diseases like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Advocate prioritizing policy and personal investments in food systems that grow and market healthy foods on a local level. Buy from your local farmers’ market or grocery store. Cook and sit down to eat with your family at least once every day. Join or start a food policy council in your community. For a national listing of food policy councils as well as technical assistance on starting one, go to Foodsecurity.org.
4. Save SNAP. Forty-four million people are on the program (formally Food Stamps)—there would be massive hunger without it—but Republicans want to enforce massive cuts and block grant the program, which would reduce its ability to respond to the next economic crisis. Go to the Food and Research Action Center to learn about the proposed cuts and how to take action.
5. Protect the land, seeds and water. Communities around the world lose millions of acres of farmland every year through land grabs by governments and corporations. The world’s precious supply of fresh water is increasingly being privatized. Much of the world’s agro biodiversity is threatened as corporations patent life forms and increasingly control the world’s seed supply. Join a local or national preservation organization that works to protect these natural resources, boycott bottled water and join the Take Back the Tap campaign, join your local land trust (find one here). Protect farmland by joining your state’s land trust and using the American Farmland Trust’s farmland preservation toolkit. Support seed-saving efforts by joining the Seed Savers Exchange.
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6. Support universal free nutritious school meals. Children learn and behave better when they are well fed. Millions of children are hungry and startling numbers are suffering from diet-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Speak to your school district’s food service director and school board members. Every public school is mandated to have a Wellness Policy. Find out what your school’s Wellness Policy is and organize parents, teachers and students to implement the policies. Go here to learn how.
7. Ensure fair prices for farmers. Current US farm policies favor corporate agribusiness to the detriment of farmers and their families, both in the United States and abroad, leaving many US farmers in a constant state of crisis. Got to the National Family Farm Coalition to learn about the Food and Farm Bill this coming year. Tell your elected officials that you want to see a decrease in subsidies to corporate agriculture in the 2012 Food and Farm Bill and an increase to subsidies and supports for farmers that sell directly to consumers.
8. Transform the emergency food system. We have the most extensive emergency food system in the world, but it can meet only a small fraction of the needs of hungry people. The donated food usually comes from corporations and can often be highly processed and non-nutritious. Call WhyHunger’s National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-Hungry to find farm-fresh and nutritious emergency food in your neighborhood. Or visit Ample Harvest to find out how you can donate farm-fresh produce to a local farm pantry.
9. Dismantle racism in the food system. It is often people of color who lose their land due to unfair loan requirements and denial of credit as well as unfair prices for farm products—they are also often not covered by fair labor laws and hiring practices. Communities of color face higher rates of diet-related health problems due to disparities in healthy food access. Join the Growing Food and Justice for All Initiative.
10. Turn the tables on Big AG. Much of the US food supply is controlled by a handful of corporations that exert harmful control over both producers and consumers. Help break up the monopoly power of Big Ag by pressuring the USDA to issue important new rules to protect farmers, ranchers and growers and pressure the Department of Justice to address decades of lax enforcement of our nation’s antitrust laws as they apply to agriculture. Take action at Worc.org and FightBigFood.org.
11. Create healthy food hubs. There are hundreds of urban and rural areas of the country that do not have easy access to good food, referred to as food deserts. In rural areas people have to drive thirty or forty miles to the nearest grocery store or supermarket; in urban areas there may not be public transportation to a food store and only fast food is available in the neighborhood. Investing in local and regional food systems—farmers that engage in direct marketing, local food processing and distribution, local markets—are all key to creating healthy food hubs. Grow your own food and buy locally. Join the growing number of folks who are growing food in their backyards, roofs and community gardens or purchasing food from local Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), food co-ops, farmers markets and stores. See the USDA website to search for CSAs and farmers’ markets in your community. Work with your local school/university/workplace or other local institution to purchase and procure just and sustainable foods. Find a Farm-to-School program near you.
12. Give a child a hunger-free summer. During the school year, 21 million children receive free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch through the School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs. When school lets out, the USDA Summer Food Service Program partners with thousands of grassroots organizations across the country to feed the millions of children during the summer. Call 1-866-3 HUNGRY to find a summer feeding program in your community. Learn how you can get involved and volunteer at the Summer Food Program.
Conceived by Walter Moseley and co-edited by Rae Gomes.
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