Here’s what people facing food insecurity want you to know about solving the hunger problem in America
Even though America is the world’s wealthiest nation, about 1 in 6 of our neighbors turned to food banks and community programs in order to feed themselves and their families last year. Think about it: More than 9 million children faced hunger in 2021 (1 in 8 children).
In order to solve a problem, we must first understand it. Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, released its second annual Elevating Voices: Insights Report and turned to the experts—people experiencing hunger—to find out how this issue can be solved once and for all.
Here are the four most important things people facing hunger want you to know.
Hunger is still an urgent crisis despite signs of economic recovery. In the months following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, headlines report that the nation’s economic health is bouncing back after years of hardship. However, a big chunk of our population is experiencing a different reality. Recovery has been uneven nationwide, and grocery prices are still higher than normal despite easing supply chain issues. With the end of the federal support offered throughout the pandemic, child poverty rates have shot up, and families like Donnette McManus’ are feeling the squeeze.
“Even though you have your list, you have your budget, things are changing so quickly. Your salary can’t keep up. So, you get to the store with the same exact list, the same 10 items can cost you 50% more,” said McManus, who lives in Massachusetts.
Feeding America Insights Report
People facing hunger say that ending food insecurity is about more than just food. Ending hunger may sound like a simple task: make sure everyone, regardless of who they are and where they live, has access to the food they need. However, as neighbor-advocate Jennifer Estrada of Wisconsin pointed out, the reality is a bit more complex, especially considering that hunger is only a symptom of bigger economic challenges.
“As much as you work, the system is set up for you to continue in a cycle of food insecurity,” said Estrada. “Your whole check goes to a rent payment if you’re not fortunate enough to own a house, with nothing leftover. But you get kicked off if you make $2 more. There needs to be some security, there needs to be a revamping of the whole system ... It seems like instead of creating less barriers to help the families in our community, it seems like policies and procedures continue to make more barriers.”
One of the biggest takeaways from the 2023Insights Report is that housing is unaffordable. Working 40+ hours a week still isn’t enough to get by for many folks. Stopping hunger in its tracks is as much about strengthening economic well-being as it is about providing equitable access to enough nourishing food.
Hunger is an issue that intersects with more than what we put on our plates. Hunger strikes without discrimination, affecting anyone, anywhere, at any time. Millions of people in the U.S. are just one job loss, missed paycheck, or medical emergency away from experiencing food insecurity. Due to a long history of racism, discrimination, and oppression in our country, hunger impacts some communities more than others, including communities of color and communities in rural areas.
While the impact of hunger is widespread, people facing it note that the stigma associated with it can strip people of their dignity or deter them from accessing the food assistance programs they’re eligible for and need. There are also inequitable systems in place that do not work for everyone.
“Your basic clerk at your local DHS [Department of Human Services] office is only employed to input information and output information back to you. A lot of times, you feel like you’re not even a human. You’re just a number to them. And if I’m just going to be a number to you, I have a mental meltdown,” said Kimberly Harris, a resident of Washington, D.C.
Feeding America Insights Report
Ending food insecurity requires a catalyzing movement. While hunger remains a widespread and persistent problem, our country already has the tools to eradicate it forever—they just need to be utilized. Most people facing hunger said that federal and local governments should treat hunger as an urgent crisis—signaling that it will take all of us to bring hunger to a halt.
So how can you take action right now? Do your part and visit FeedingAmerica.org/ElevatingVoices to read the 2023 Elevating Voices: Insights Report and sign a petition to encourage Congress to pass legislation that will help ensure no one in America goes hungry. Let’s all pitch in to make the wealthiest nation become the happiest and most prosperous—for all.