An American Food Crisis Paradox
There is a food crisis paradox in America. The economy is down, jobs are difficult to come by in the system that exists, and putting food on the table is becoming harder and harder as a stable income is becoming scarcer. It is ironic that our country produces an excess of food from our massive industrial systems, notably high-calorie, low-nutrition foods, and we have an overweight low-income population as a result because it is all they have access to. Not to mention food insecurity in the rest of the hungry world. What really gets me is that feeding these people– who are struggling to get by on meager incomes and unstable access to jobs – through foodbanks that depend upon the donations of our current agricultural industrial complex seems like it is stoking food insecurity, environmental degradation, and the perpetuation of poverty.
It is striking to me that one in four Americans is worried about having enough money to put food on the table. It reflects insecurity in our system through our workforce, and through our access to food. The system all depends on the money it takes to put food on the table in the first place – which is linked with access to a sustainable income that provides enough to feed your family healthily. I think it is definitely an issue of a lack of peace that a quarter of the citizens in our society fear the coming years as a time of food insecurity. It also stands out to me that most of the major foodbanks responsible for supplying food to the hungry in our nation have been struggling themselves to meet the rising demands, for they rely heavily on donated materials. Interestingly, a large majority of donated food is highly processed, high in calories, and low in nutritional content, yet foodbanks distribute it because accepting junk food donations from their corporate suppliers brings them foods also high in protein, like meat products. The foodbanks can’t get picky, because they depend upon the excess of the industrial system to meet the hunger demands. This is ironic to me. With such an efficient agricultural system, even as it has contributed to degrading the environment by maximizing production, has not served to feed people more adequately but more inadequately, as the book Limits to Growth points out. It is a system that has exacerbated both social and environmental issues.
I think there is a need to redefine the importance and significance of food in our culture. It has so much to do with our health, our interactions, community, and reflects so much of our happiness. Food security is key. It is not right that so many rely upon foodbanks to meet their needs because they lack access to dependable and sustainable incomes, and also not right that foodbanks are turning people away for a lack of food. Creating jobs and food access can be a linked vision. There is both a need for the self-sufficiency of the foodbank that currently depends too much upon industrial excess, but more so we need to emphasize the need for self-sufficiency in our society. How can we meet income needs, and food needs simultaneously? A lot can be done, and already has begun, with making foodbanks self-sufficient by growing vegetable produce to provide healthy meals, and providing community jobs and access to food by participating in the garden itself. Food security is a huge topic but it begins with creating self-sufficiency, on a much smaller scale than we are used to, I think.