September is Hunger Action Month — a month where people all over America stand together with Feeding America and the nationwide network of food banks to fight hunger. It’s a month to spread the word and take action on the hunger crisis and dedicate ourselves to a solution. We challenge you to learn more about the issue of food insecurity in our community and take action and spreading awareness to help eliminate hunger.
During Hunger Action Month in 2019, we released a public report, Hunger and Food Insecurity: The Root Causes and Consequences, in which we partnered with researchers at Old Dominion University to determine the underlying factors of food insecurity and offer a glimpse of the complex factors guiding the evolution of our work. The five root causes of food insecurity are represented in the icons below. Each week, we will focus on a different root cause, offering ways to explore the impacts of each one, share information and take action to make a difference.
Several aspects of healthcare and food insecurity are interconnected. Many families find themselves caught in a cycle of being unable to afford healthy food; needing expensive medical care to treat diet-related health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and obesity; and then having to choose between paying for healthy food and medicine.
The Foodbank is committed to ensuring that our neighbors not only have access to food — but healthy, nutritious food — to meet their needs. Our Healthy Food Pantry Program provides access to healthy foods that are low in sodium, sugar and trans-fat and increase distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables to individuals struggling with health-related conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Through another program, Nourishing Our Neighbors, we distribute an assortment of fresh produce and healthy foods, as well as nutrition education resources, to children and families in communities with low income and limited access to food.
Racial Disparities and Healthcare
Racial inequalities have long impacted health outcomes for people of color, including African Americans and Latinos. These populations have been disproportionately impacted by negative outcomes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through our coordinated hunger-relief response to COVID-19, the Foodbank has learned that as the demand for our services continues to rise, it is absolutely critical we prioritize those populations disproportionately impacted by poverty and food insecurity.
Five Actions To Take This Week
- Monday: Explore Feeding America’s Racial Disparities Dashboard to see how communities of color are disproportionately impacted by poverty.
- Tuesday: Watch a Documentary Trailer: The Skin You’re In to learn about the African-American health disparity—why it exists and what can be done about it.
- Wednesday: Read this article that outlines how food insecurity adds $53 billion annually to healthcare costs.
- Thursday: Create a healthy and budget-friendly dish, take a photo and share it, along with the recipe, through our Foodbank’s Get Healthy Recipe Challenge.
- Friday: Share this story about Jodi, an Eastern Shore resident who has dietary restrictions stemming from health issues and is challenged with not having enough money to buy food. Learn how the Foodbank helps to meet their needs.
Feeding America’s Hunger Study shows that 71% of college students are nontraditional, meaning they may possess the following characteristics: experience financial independence, are enrolled part-time, work full-time while in school, are caretakers for dependents, and/or did not receive a traditional high school diploma.
College students across the country face many financial-related barriers, including rising tuition rates, crippling student loan debt and the stress of balancing education with part-time jobs. For students already challenged by lack of income, these issues can lead to larger struggles, including food insecurity. Before the pandemic, 37 % of households were choosing between food and educational expenses. Like most issues that existed beforehand, COVID-19 has only heightened the situation.
In June 2020, through a partnership with Tidewater Community College and with funding from TowneBank, we opened The Community Feed, a vibrant, inviting and engaging mixed-use space located at MacArthur Center in Norfolk. The space is designed for TCC students to access healthy food and connectto resources aimed at holistically addressing root causes of food insecurity: lack of access to higher education, employment, housing, healthcare and financial literacy. Learn more about The Community Feed at TCC in our fall newsletter.
Five Actions To Take This Week
- Monday: Listen to this podcast that outlines the importance of supporting students facing food and housing insecurity.
- Tuesday: Watch this PBS News Hour video to learn how pop-up pantries are aiming to reduce food insecurity for college students.
- Wednesday: Read this article from The Hill that explores the connection between hunger and reduced academic outcomes—and how individuals in rural communities and minority groups are often disproportionately impacted.
- Thursday: Sign up for a volunteer shift at The Community Feed at TCC.
- Friday: Share this video about The Community Feed at TCC to explore the inside of this vibrant, inviting space at MacArthur Center and learn about the services available to students.
This week, our root cause focus is on housing. Before COVID-19, many of our neighbors were faced with difficult choices like making a rent or mortgage payment or buying food. For our neighbors of color, before COVID-19, African Americans were two and half times as likely and Latino individuals were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White individuals. These issues have been exacerbated since the pandemic, and Feeding America projects a 50% increase in food insecurity in our service area and a 75% increase for children.
In 2018, the Foodbank conducted extensive mapping to identify communities with high rates of food insecurity and low access to grocery stores. On top of these maps, we layered information about our partners and programs in each community. Before, during and after the pandemic, we will continue to focus on communities with the greatest need to ensure that all families can have access to healthy, nutritious foods.
These maps highlight population-level statistics in two urban and rural communities within our service area, one in Norfolk and one in Western Tidewater—including Franklin, Southampton County and Isle of Wight County— where food insecurity disparities are most severe. These neighborhoods represent the wide range of food insecurity rates in our community, even in areas that are adjacent to one another, illustrating our reason for not only “feeding the line” but “ending the line.”
Five Actions To Take This Week
- Monday: Explore Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap for an overview of food insecurity among individuals and children all across the country.
- Tuesday: Watch this segment of Sesame Street that introduces children to Lili, a young girl who loves the color purple, enjoys spending time with her friends and, unfortunately, has been experiencing housing insecurity.
- Wednesday: Read this article from NPR that explains why the financial pain from the pandemic is ‘much, much worse’ than expected and how Black and Latino households are disproportionately impacted.
- Thursday: Participate in the 2020 Census to help ensure that your community receives its fair shares of resources and representation.
- Friday: Share this video from Frontline: Growing Up Poor in America, which follows three children and their families as they navigate months of uncertainty during the pandemic.
This week, our root cause focus is on workforce development. Key factors of food insecurity include unemployment, income shocks and lower assets – all important drivers that impact a household’s ability to afford food and weather hard times. This has been particularly evident during the pandemic as individuals have experienced income losses and subsequently found themselves in need of food assistance, many for the first time. Overall, Feeding America projects a 50% increase in food insecurity for our service area and a 75% increase for children due to COVID-19.
For individuals to consistently access healthy foods for themselves and their families, it requires access to jobs that pay a living wage and tools to work toward career advancement so that individuals can achieve economic self-sufficiency. The Foodbank is dedicated to holistically addressing lack of access to employment paying livable wages. With funding from Feeding America, we have partnered with the Hampton Roads Workforce Council through Virginia Career Works to connect individuals experiencing food insecurity with resources to launch or advance their careers through learning and training opportunities. We launched onsite Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) application assistance for individuals undergoing training and for job seekers. We also provided emergency food to these individuals so they could focus on their training instead of worrying about affording their next meal.
Five Actions To Take This Week
- Monday: Explore Feeding America’s Economic Drivers of Food Insecurity to see how changes in unemployment, poverty and home ownership may increase or decrease estimates of food insecurity across the country.
- Tuesday: Watch this video to learn how the Hampton Roads Workforce Council helps people find employment opportunities, enroll in college or postsecondary training and explore what the next step in a career could mean for someone.
- Wednesday: Read this New York Times article that explains why the relationship between poverty and hunger isn’t as simple as we might think, especially during the pandemic.
- Thursday: Organize a fund drive or a food drive with your colleagues. As a group, you can make a large impact for individuals in our community while promoting teambuilding and corporate social responsibility.
- Friday: Share this blog post about Danielle, a mother of four who is training to become a maritime welder. Receiving fresh foods from the Foodbank gives her peace of mind and allows her to focus on her career path.
In this final week of HAM, our root cause focus is on financial literacy. To be financially literate, a person understands how to create and stick to an individual or household budget, build an emergency fund, avoid or overcome debt and manage income in a way that will lead to stable and successful financial outcomes. Without receiving education on managing finances, individuals are more likely to experience debt and live paycheck to paycheck, prioritizing other necessities, like rent, utilities and other bills over purchasing food.
To complete the research survey for our Root Causes report last year, researchers from ODU asked about individuals’ experiences in childhood and whether their parents had prepared them to manage their lives financially, such as by teaching them to save or how to make and stick to a household budget. Few of them remembered their guardians teaching them about how to save and how to be prepared for potential food insecurity or hardship. When they became adults, individuals surveyed indicated they were not well prepared for the hardships they faced. Negative life events (for example unemployment or divorce) put individuals at a higher risk of experiencing food insecurity as they try to manage limited resources and basic needs.
Five Actions To Take This Week
- Monday: Americans overwhelmingly believe that lack of financial education contributes to bigger social issues in America, including poverty, lack of job opportunities and wealth inequality. Read this article from Fortune detailing how COVID-19 unveiled a lack of financial literacy in our country.
- Tuesday: Money is tight, and food insecurity is at all all-time high. Watch this video to learn cost-cutting methods to apply when grocery shopping.
- Wednesday: Explore Bank On Hampton Roads, a local nonprofit that offers free, five-month financial literacy programs to help participants become financially empowered and feel confident in making sound financial decisions.
- Thursday: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a critical resource for families struggling to make ends meet, but these benefits are often insufficient to meet living expenses. Practice calculating a household budget using SNAP benefits.
- Friday: Consider joining our monthly sustainer program, FEED365, to give monthly and feed daily. Whether your monthly gift is $5, $50 or $500, these donations allow us to more effectively plan where to distribute funds to make the most impact.
Map the Meal Gap
Click here to see the impact of coronvirus on food insecurity in our area.
For every $10 we receive, we can distribute up to $60 worth of grocery products!