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COMMENTARY

Addressing the root causes of hunger

Posted on September 22, 2021

OpinionColumns

L. Ron Pringle

L. Ron Pringle

Across the nation, food banks like Inter-Faith Food Shuttle saw a spike in need due to the pandemic with food costs skyrocketing and supply chains shutting down. This includes the food shuttle’s 547% increase in food spending in fiscal year 2020 over 2019 since the onset of COVID-19.

And yet, as we spend more money on purchasing food, we must ask ourselves: is it working? Are these efforts moving neighbors down the path toward food security?

As the food shuttle begins to move forward on our five-year strategic plan year one goals, our client-centered strategies will have a deeper focus on the root causes of hunger.  Based on the collaborative learning of 60 food policy leaders in a recent CEO Think Tank, we have joined the conversation to begin to define the specific root causes of hunger.

Out of this collaboration comes a definition on which we can build a foundation for root cause policy change by:

1. Addressing systemic barriers such as race, gender and economic inequity.

2. Recognizing the correlation of intertwined symptoms such as lack of health care, low wages and housing insecurity.

3. Seeking the solutions grounded in and led by communities of color and those with lived experience of hunger.

The hard truth is that putting more food on the table and more cans into families’ pantries does not address the root causes of hunger. Our initiatives operate within a socioeconomic structure that works against equitable solutions to food insecurity. We have an obligation to ensure that we are not doing anything to keep those oppressive structures intact, however unintentional they may be.

The first step in this regard is to ask, “Why are people hungry?” and be prepared to listen.

We will collaborate to build strong relationships by seeking out the input and counsel of our neighbors with the knowledge and solutions to build a healthier community. 

As we continue this great body of work, your support is needed now more than ever. Whether through your time, your talent or your treasure; you can make a difference. 

Community taking care of community has always been at the foundation of the food shuttle, empowering our neighbors and putting them first.  And with your help, we will push the needle, build long-term solutions and address these systemic barriers head-on. 

L. Ron Pringle is president and CEO of Inter-Faith Food Shuttle.

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