In the early stages of the pandemic, most Americans learned for the first time, what it was like to be out of consumer goods, including perishable items like food. It was an eye opener, This time gave us a sobering glimpse into what it is like for someone to suffer from food insecurity: wondering if you had enough food in the house or whether you had enough for today’s dinner. This feeling, while fleeting, for many is the reality for so many of us.
We need to eradicate every degree of food security in New Jersey. This has long been a priority for me, and we have to look beyond our own parochial interests to rid our society of this scourge. We must work together, united, to ensure that food systems are resilient enough to withstand volatility, such as in a pandemic.
Organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have been a global leader in working to fulfill its mission to end hunger for 75 years. And, as we recently marked World Food Day on October 16th we acknowledge that global hunger is rising and more attention is needed towards this problem.
Closer to home here in New Jersey, recent reports indicate that food insecurity will rise over 50% by the end of the year. We should not restrict attention to food scarcity only on World Food Day. It is with us every day.
“Everyone across our food sector plays an important role in ensuring nutritious food is available — but you can make a difference too,” according to the FAO. “Consumers are more than just eaters: You also have the power to influence what is produced through healthy food choices, which in turn contribute to more sustainable food systems.”
Suggestions by the FAO include:
Choose Food that’s in Season. Did you know that you reduce your carbon footprint when you buy produce that’s in season? When food is out of season, it has to be imported and travel a long distance before it arrives at your local market. Eating seasonal food can also be riper, tastier and more nutritious.
Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Today only nine plant species account for 66% of total crop production, even though there are at least 30,000 edible plants. We need to grow a variety of food to nourish people and sustain the planet.
The Cost of Malnutrition. The impact of malnutrition in all its forms – under nutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, as well as obesity - on the global economy is estimated at $3.5 trillion per year.
Some might feel that these efforts and the U.N.’s imprimatur seem distant and don’t touch you close to home. However, as I said previously we have people close to home right here in South Jersey. I have written before about the Food Bank of South Jersey, which supports food needs, nutrition and sustainability. All you need to do is to click with your ZIP code to find the nearest food bank to you. If you need help, it is nearby. If you want to help, you can volunteer or donate food or money. Also, let’s not forget they have been and are stretched particularly hard during the coronavirus pandemic.
A sampling of what they provide includes:
1. Emergency food bags and boxes to families.
2. Five days’ worth of meals: breakfasts, lunches and snacks.
3. Fresh meals and shelf-stable food items to children.
4. Two weeks’ worth of food supplies to seniors.
Whether you think of helping with food insecurity by volunteering or donating food items, what matters is that you do something. No one should go to bed hungry or worry about their next meal....and together we can do more to ensure that no one does. That’s my take, what’s yours?