Solving hunger should be as simple as the slice, smear and crunch of an apple with peanut butter. And in some ways, it is. If just for a moment, a snack or a small meal, can take care of the stomach’s rumble.
But the wider problem of food insecurity, or the inability to consistently access nutritious food, is anything but simple. The real solution, if a single one exists, is as multilayered as the problem. For Jen Wood, research and development officer at the Southeast Missouri Food Bank, the fix requires two movements: getting hungry people fed today, and addressing the interlacing systems that led them there.
“There’s that immediate need, and then there’s that long-term need,” Wood said. “Immediately, people need help right now, and food is something that can’t wait.”
Dotted across the country, community-sized, grassroots programs have cropped up to address both needs. They’re not one-size-fits-all, but they offer postures as well as paradigms:
- A job skills program that begins with a sack lunch and ends with employment for residents of extended stays in Branson.
- A “community food resource center” in Indiana that blends meals, workshops, and advocacy (along with a book club that feeds the belly and the brain).
- Small corner stores in Kansas City where, as if overnight, fruits and vegetables appear near shelves stocked with chips and candy.
These projects exist within the context of a long-standing, anti-hunger movement.
The first Food Stamp Program began in 1939 in an attempt to connect surplus food with unemployed Americans during the Great Depression. The program, deemed no longer necessary when both conditions decreased, disbanded in 1943, only to return for good in the 1960s. The decade yielded more conversations and change across the country.