Google image search the word “hunger” and you’ll be presented with the faces of black and brown children, from Africa and the Middle East . These children, with their pot bellies, exposed ribcages and doe-eyed expressions of sorrow out stretch their hands asking for a donation of food or money.
These images are strewn across American media outlets as the only faces of hunger, which is quite damaging for those suffering in the United States. In the U.S. there is no distinct face of hunger – the retired army veteran, the single parent working a low-wage job, the recently laid-off middle aged neighbor and more.
According to a recent survey published by Feeding America, 1 in 6 Americans struggles with hunger.
In a recent trip to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, I had the opportunity to learn about hunger in America and the methods in which organizations (CNS, Big-Y, and Stop&Shop) and government agencies (United States Department of Agriculture, Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)are trying to combat the issue of hunger.
Heather Clark, the Development and Marketing Manager at the Food Bank spoke to us about the partnerships between the food bank and local organizations and government agencies. She described the break down of food income – explaining that about 50-percent of all food received comes from the USDA, while the other half is comprised from local grocers, farmers and food drives.
Clark went on to explain that the food bank assists more than 200,000 people suffering from hunger, a number that is quite large, but not an accurate portrayal of the millions of others who do not qualify for assistance because they do not meet the requirements that classify them as impoverished.
Fortunately for the millions of families and individuals that do not qualify for supplemental programs like SNAP or WIC, they will never be turned down or away from local food pantries like the Stone Soup Cafe in Greenfield, or non-profits with community gardens like Nuestras Raices in Holyoke or Gardening the Community in Springfield.
Both of which are programs that are designed to combat hunger in inner city food deserts.
For more information about community gardens and the ground work that these two non-profits are doing, please check out the full length article about Urban Agriculture and Sustainability.