Social Safety Nets are Just Part of the Solution

October 15, 2008 § Leave a comment

Lisa Goddard –

No man is an island, entire of itself… John Donne (1572-1631)

Beyond relying on charities, and the goodness of our neighbors, our community’s ability to address the issues of food security and hunger must take into account the complex nature of acquiring, consuming and disposing food.   Most recently, a perfect storm of factors including rising fuel prices, economic downturns, droughts in foreign countries, conflicts and trade imbalances, has driven up the price of basic food items.

For food banks and their partners, there has been a shift from clients needing one-time and emergency assistance to year-round or multi-year reliance on charities.  This past year, CAFB and its Partner Agencies have seen a 20 percent average increase in clientele.  Even if the poverty rate remains constant, the population growth projected in Central Texas means more hungry and food insecure families and children.

Not only is there an increased demand overall, but also a demand for varied, nutritious foods as more families turn to pantries for their nutrition.

In a recent Texas Food Bank Network study, 31 percent of low-income Texans have difficulty feeding their families balanced meals. These families “cope” with skyrocketing food prices by sacrificing quality before quantity. While food prices have risen across the board, the report finds the cost of healthy food quickly rising. When healthy food costs more than ten times as much, on a per-calorie basis, there is little choice for Texans with limited means. The report finds that households served by the Food Bank Network spent $466 less on healthy foods, than the average Texas household in 2006.

Traditionally, food banks provide a necessary relief for hunger, especially during emergency situations. But the charity model has not, and in many cases, is not systemically designed to reduce long-term need.  This shift in demand now requires food banks and other charitable organizations to examine its increasing role in the food system for so many Americans. The danger: we begin to accept what should be unacceptable.

Comfort, in knowing there is a social safety net through charities, and to some extent, federal food assistance, is not the same as addressing the root causes of hunger and poverty.

Creating a food-secure community requires the active participation of for-profit companies, non-profit organizations, government agencies and volunteers.

Are you ready?

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