In an earlier BLOG, I argued that systemic solutions to our local hunger problems were necessary and that most current efforts, while very well-intentioned and very important to curb hunger in the immediate, are mere “Band-Aids.” Here is a letter I wrote to some local people to share my thoughts on what we can do in our City (modified a little to make it more relevant to those that might be reading this from other areas of the globe; please share your ideas too!).
Now for the “solution” part as it concerns our community directly and systemic solutions to hunger:
There are many steps to ending hunger in our community. First, we have to acknowledge it exists; the KPCK founders did this early on (we did research and shared findings). Second, we have to dig deep within ourselves and ask how important the fact that people and, especially, children are going hungry in our community is to us. Third, we have to determine how much time and effort each one of us is willing to give to remedying, and ultimately eliminating, this tragic situation. Once we do this, then we can begin to build systemic solutions.
What are systemic solutions? They are ones that will not only reduce/end hunger today but they will build an infrastructure in our community that will reduce/end hunger in the future. Here are a few things we can do (I’d love to hear your ideas and reactions as well):
1. Teach people to cook healthful food; weekly classes in a predictable, accessible, functional space.
2. Make healthful food available at affordable prices year-round
3. Greatly increase the purchase of locally-grown food (monies that will be reinjected in to our community and provide incomes to existing food producers)
4. Provide people opportunities to grow their own food (through repurposing open lots, providing raised beds, rain barrels, seeds, etc.; weekly lessons on techniques; daily camps for children)
5. Get the City’s leaders (governmental, non-profit, foundational, religious, educational, etc.) to acknowledge this is a major problem and get them to contribute their money & time to systemic solutions
6. Improve transportation access to healthful food centers, especially in winter.
7. Train future farmers who can rebuild the region into a diverse food production system.
Connecting the dots:
(1), (2) & (3) could be done through a Food Hub. We need to return to this solution; not sure why we stopped that push.
(4) is happening at various venues but they all need more volunteers and small monetary contributions to strengthen and we need new venues and supplies
(5) needs to be asked (or demanded)
(6) has been discussed by various groups but more push needs to happen to clarify how this can be best accomplished (perhaps, better bus routes, food distribution truck, neighborhood food stores, etc.)
(7) needs support of local extension offices, Community colleges, school districts, etc.
We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Ottumwa, Iowa (2.5 hours west of here) started a Food Hub downtown just last year and it is booming (link). Chad Summers launched Healthy Harvest Urban Farms & Organic Garden Center (link) in East Moline just a few years ago (and it has been so popular that he will be opening a second store in Rock Island)! There is the Food Coop that just opened in Macomb (link). There is a new healthful food store, The Butter Churn, in Woodhull (link). The list goes on and on. Let’s make something happen here in G’Burg!