Imagine the anxiety of not knowing when you will get your next meal. For many people, this is not imagined – it happens every day.
Food insecurity is a pervasive problem, both global and local.
Recently, students and faculty from the WCU Nutrition, Political Science, and Geography Departments attended the World Information Transfer (WIT) conference on Food Insecurity and Prevention. Representatives from around the world, including Yuriy Sergeyev, Ukranian ambassador to the UN, sought to raise awareness about the global issue of food insecurity.
Sergeyev discussed Ukraine’s historic struggle with food insecurity. The Holodomor, literally “killing by starvation,” tolled an estimated seven to 10 million deaths between 1932-33 as a result of Soviet food restriction. Sergeyev describes,
“In my country… millions of deaths were caused by the confiscation of everything considered as a food, the prohibition of the trade in foodstuffs, and the deployment of internal and border troops to keep the starving people from traveling to other regions… in search of food.”
Rutgers University political scientist Dr. Alexander Motyl added to this chilling account, recalling a visit to Soviet Russia. There he saw a disturbing poster, warning against the consumption of corpses for survival. Motyl asked a Soviet official, “What is the purpose of such a poster; is it really that bad here?” The official paused, and replied solemnly, “Not all of our people are educated.”
Such horrors are unimaginable to most of us, but tragedies like this are still occurring in many parts of the world, and hungry people can be found on every continent.
In the U.S., food insecurity is more common than people may think. In fact, one in every eight Chester County residents are food insecure. Low wages and long hours make it hard to afford food, or find the time to cook. Additionally, urban areas across the country are “food deserts” where fewer grocery stores and limited transportation means limited access to food.
Food insecurity may seem hopeless. However, speakers at the conference offered plausible, realistic solutions. Organizations, policies, technologies, and free press can all help prevent food insecurity.
Locally, the Chester County Food Bank (CCFB) is an example of an organization that provides for food insecure households. One service offered is the Backpack Program. Each week, volunteers prepare back-packs full of non perishable food. The backpacks are delivered to over 500 low-income school children every Friday to ensure that they will have food over the weekend. This is just one example of the many local organizations that help provide food for the hungry.
Programs like these are important, but more important are the people who take part in them. Anyone who would like to participate in the local effort to prevent food insecurity can start by getting involved in WCU’s March food drive. The Student Dietetic Association and CCFB are collecting high protein canned and non-perishable foods to be distributed to food insecure households this spring. Foods accepted include canned/packaged tuna or chicken, 12-oz. jars of peanut butter, and shelf-stable milk such as Parmalat. Donate non-perishable goods to the WCU Health and Science Center on South Campus March 5 -20. Collection boxes will be clearly marked and placed under the large bulletin board at the top of the stairs on the third floor.
Make a difference in local food insecurity by volunteering, donating, speaking with others to raise awareness, and working to enact policies that put food on the table for food insecure individuals.
Kellyn McNamarais a third-year student majoring in nutrition & dietetics with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at KM654122@wcupa.edu.