Fighting food insecurity: Examples of action

We’ve looked at the health and economical costs of hunger and we’ve looked at the numbers that tell us just how big the problem of food insecurity is. Now, let’s start looking at examples of efforts to solve the problem.

Canned vegetables line the shelves of food pantry at San Antonio Community College. KENS 5 Eyewitness News

In south Texas,  students and staff at San Antonio College have launched a food pantry that’s part of their new  Student Advocacy Center (SAC). The food pantry came to fruition after staff members learned about a similar project in Amarillo at Amarillo College. Students can fill two bags with food, toiletries and many other things they’d find at a grocery store.

“Let us try and see if there’s not something we can bring to bear to keep you here,” said Lisa Black, SAC Co-creator and associate professor of social work at San Antonio College. “That gives people encouragement. It gives them hope that we can hang on to our students.”

How hungry is your neighborhood?

fruits-at-farmers-market

Individuals who suffer from food insecurity lack reliable access to nutritious and affordable food like fruits and vegetables.

Last week, I shared information about the health effects food insecurity has on children.

Now that we have an idea of why we need to work to fix the issue, I thought we could look at just how prevalent poverty and hunger are in our state.

Feeding Texas, the state food bank network which is a part of Feeding America, has created a map based on census data that shows levels of poverty and food insecurity throughout the state.

The Houston Food Bank has gone a bit further, mapping out the zip codes in the Houston metro area and providing information for each that looks like this:

hfb

The Houston Food Bank has created an interactive map showing food insecurity data in 2016 for each of the zip codes in the Houston area. Boxes like this provide metrics for each zip code. Source: Houston Food Bank

The information on each map provides a clear picture of just how many Texans suffer from hunger and how the numbers vary (sometimes significantly) even between neighboring areas.

Why Food Insecurity?

I know what it means to be food-insecure (a phrase that means not having a reliable source of food). As a child in a single-parent household, I remember my mom going without so that her children could eat. I remember knowing that I should ask before grabbing a snack, because certain items were meant for certain meals and eating them would mean our family going without until payday (and maybe longer).

Two of my favorite photos from the first Snack Paks 4 Kids corn distribution event.

Two of my favorite photos from the first Snack Paks 4 Kids corn distribution event.

I know that my family and many others wouldn’t have survived without organizations like my church, which had a food pantry, or the Amarillo College Food Pantry, the High Plains Food Bank, Snack Pak 4 Kids, and a handful of others. We also depended on government-funded initiatives like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Women, Infants, and Children and the National School Lunch Program.

But I also know that for every person who each of these organizations and programs helped, there are still many more who are trying to survive in food-insecure homes.

I’m a senior journalism student at Texas Tech University. This spring, I get to choose one topic to focus on for the entire semester. I’ve chosen food insecurity.

I want to look into the reasons why more than 12 percent of American families still suffer from food insecurity. I want to look at the ways communities are tackling the problem and find out how, as a country, we’ve managed to bring the average down from close to 15 percent, but there are still pockets where it’s more than 20 percent and why, according to the most recent data available, it’s almost 50 percent among college students. I want to find and share the stories of the people who are helping, the people who are surviving and the obstacles we still face as a country.

I’ll share stories, reports, data and other things I find on this page. One of the first I’ve come across is an op-ed from a university president in California. It has lots of good information about the situation among his state’s college students.

At the end of the semester, I hope to also publish the work I’ve completed about our local issues. Here’s hoping my work will make a difference, too.