Are Charitable Responses Bypassing the Real Discussion?
Periodically, we hear inspiring stories of individuals or organizations dedicated to feeding people living in poverty. Stories that describe the generous souls who volunteer time and money to help hungry people in distress: the destitute, the left behind of our society.
But only rarely do these stories mention the terrifying figure of 50.1 million Americans, including 16.7 million children, who are food-insecure in the world’s largest economy! And even more rarely are these stories accompanied by questions such as, “Why are these people hungry?” and “What can we do to address the underlying causes of their hunger?”
While these questions aren’t easy to answer, it is essential for a democratic society to ask them. We have sufficient information to start the conversation: We know that there is a direct correlation between income and hunger, and between ethnicity and hunger (hunger affects proportionally more Black and Hispanic households in the U.S.) We also know that single-headed households and households with children under six are more vulnerable.
In addition, we must talk about the need for both immediate and lasting, sustainable solutions to the problem of hunger; current food distribution and delivery systems risk exalting charitable programs as the answer. To find permanent responses, we need to discuss strategies such as:
• Aligning incomes with the cost of living
• Making basic nutritious food baskets affordable to all
• Bringing food (especially fresh food) closer to consumers
• Educating consumers about healthy eating
• Enforcing existing food industry and business regulations
• Promoting local food production
• Providing safety nets, especially food stamps, as an entitlement to all vulnerable people
Avoiding this discussion means resisting the opportunity to address the root causes of hunger and poverty in America. It also means that, as a nation, we have not yet completed the mission of our founders.