By Christina Sivulka GW’18
Earlier this month, leading national expert on community food security, Andy Fisher, came to campus to promote his new book, Big Hunger. With 1 in 6 Americans facing hunger in the U.S., food banks have been growing rapidly and are heavily depended on by those who go hungry every day. However, there is debate on how effective they are at eliminating hunger. GW students and the D.C. community had the opportunity to discuss these issues with Andy Fisher, Jody Tick of Capital Area Food Bank, Tim Miller of George Washington University, and Mike Curtin of DC Central Kitchen – leading experts on hunger in D.C.
Here are three things we learned from the panel:
- Food pantries are merely a band aid to the overarching problems – but a well needed one. Ending hunger is seen as a charitable endeavor, when it should be seen as a political, economic, and social issue. People are hungry because of the disparities in economic well-being. When large corporations donate food, these actions can be seen as “toxic charity” because they are perpetuating the reliance on handouts rather than fixing the underlying causes of hunger. Food banks and food pantries are a temporary solution to a enduring problem. They’ve been around for decades but hunger is still a major issue and nowhere close to being solved. However, food banks are feeding the 1 in 6 Americans facing hunger that rely on them, making them an indispensable tool for mitigating short-term hunger in America.
- “If we know the people we’re feeding today are going to come back tomorrow and we’re okay with that, we have a problem.” -Mike Curtin of D.C. Central Kitchen. While food pantries are much needed to mitigate day-to-day hunger, they should be working on “putting themselves out of business.” D.C. Central Kitchen hires individuals with low socioeconomic status, pays them a livable wage, and trains them to be indispensable parts of the restaurant industry. In this way, by giving individuals skills to thrive and earn their own income, D.C. Central Kitchen is working to end the perpetual cycle of hunger.
- We need to make food banking obsolete. In addition to hosting canned food drives, we can demand and fund change. We can call for politicians to initiate policy changes aimed towards dampening the underlying causes of hunger. We can fight for SNAP, for fairer minimum wages, and for better working conditions. We can call for a moratorium on capital campaigns and instead focus our efforts on ending the perpetual cycle of hunger.
43 million Americans at risk of hunger is way too high of a number to approach this issue from a charitable perspective. We need to think of new solutions and come up with new ways to eliminate hunger through a focus on health, economic justice and local economies.