Thursday, December 06, 2007

Another Approach to Ending Hunger

Earlier, I shared how Harvest's Backpack Program is feeding children who might not get enough food over the weekend.

Mark Winne, the former director of the Hartford (Conn.) Food System and author of "Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty," offers a very different take on food and programs like Second Harvest. In a recent Q&A with the Washington Post, Winne answered readers questions about his apparently controversial position about food banks:
What I am saying is that we cannot end hunger unless we end poverty; food banking as well as other antihunger programs do a good job of managing poverty by alleviating its worst symptom, hunger. While antihunger programs remain necessary for the time being, they have strayed too far from, and in some cases never acknowledged the need to end poverty.

From what he's saying here, I don't see that he's against food banks, per se. He - and others - just feel that food banks aren't the only answer, but too many people view them as the answer. Food banks were never designed to provide a long-term solution: They're to combat emergency needs, but increasingly, they've become the only solution.

Winne doesn't offer easy solutions, but he tackles some tough questions and he's raising touch challenges about what it will take to end hunger in our more-than-wealthy nation. He argues that it's going to take public policy - not just private handouts.

This piece doesn't yield itself to easy action steps, but here are the action steps I saw in the piece.

Make It Happen:
  1. Support food banks and other emergency programs, but realize they aren't an end in and of themselves. It's time the U.S. looked at long-term, real solutions, such as giving a living wage to all workers.
  2. If you work or volunteer for a food bank or soup kitchen, examine what government policies you can support that will create long-term, sustainable change for your clients. Winne recommends the Oregon Food Bank as a model.
  3. If you're involved with any charity, make sure the group empowers those it helps to be part of the solution.
  4. Winne urges that we "support community economic development strategies that will bring good paying job to poor communities."
  5. Winne also suggests communities work to establish new supermarkets in low-income communities. Local markets give people access to lower-priced and healthier foods, plus they create jobs.
  6. He also suggests supporting health care for the uninsured.
  7. Do what you can to establish or support job training programs for the unemployed.

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