I had the good fortune to be able to observe the Produce to People program at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank tonight. I’m beat, and still processing all that I learned, but it was definitely one of those experiences I can’t forget. Here’s a glimpse of what I saw.
This doesn’t begin to demonstrate the volume of people or food in the room tonight. This does, however, demonstrate the ways people can be resourceful in getting their food home (we saw many laundry baskets in use). It also demonstrates the ubiquity of the canned corn that helps to fill in the gaps.
This once a month distribution is designed to be supplementary to local food pantry use, providing fresh produce as well as more shelf-stable food. However, 60% of the participants don’t have a home food pantry. Families can take home up to 45 pounds of food, and we saw volunteers maneuvering these carts back and forth for hours tonight.
The Paper Plate campaign asks people to explain to their elected officials how hunger has affected them, and what role the food bank has played in their life. This month, Senator Pat Toomey is the intended recipient of the paper plates – and you can send one virtually. It’s an easy way to make your voice heard and support food security in our region.
17.2 million households were food insecure in 2010 – they had trouble putting food on the table, or didn’t know where their next meal would come from.
Children in 386,000 households went hungry at some point in 2010.
Both stories also noted that these statistics would have been worse if not for government nutrition programs. One in seven Americans (over 45 million) are in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, an increase of over 10 million since late 2007.
In the richest country in the world, ten million MORE people needed assistance eating in the past three years. While I’m not overly religious, I do try my best to be a good person, do what I can to help others, live a life where I can look myself in the mirror every day. And yet I hear that one in seven Americans need help eating? Where is their help from their neighbor? Where is their ‘brother’s keeper’? Who’s been shirking on the ‘do unto others’ part of the golden rule so that these people – almost 400,000 *children* – don’t have enough money to eat?
Thanks, NPR, for firing me up and making me angry. Thanks, USDA (who I usually nitpick) for releasing this data during Hunger Action Month. Thanks, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, for giving me an opportunity to learn more about the face of hunger in our community tomorrow, so I can DO something about it.
People who know me know I’m a mama bear when it comes to my family. I may have just broadened the reach of my claws.
Though all of these are laudable things to celebrate in September (my husband would wholly support bourbon as “America’s Native Spirit”), Wiki missed a few non-national commemoration options for September that resonate with me. In Pennsylvania, September has been designated Local Food Month by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA). PASA is highlighting the harvest at its peak, restaurants that buy local, and farms that are opening their doors to people interested in seeing from where their food originates. There’s a calendar full of opportunities to connect with the local food community in western PA. And who can resist carrots as cute as these guys:
I’m excited to be able to take part in one of their ‘Ways’ this month – I’ll be participating in their blogmob this Thursday, and will be sharing my experiences with you. At a time of year when so many are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of produce at markets or in their backyards (including me and those damn tomatoes), it will be a good reminder that not everyone is as lucky as me to complain about too many fresh vegetables. Stay tuned!
Update: found another one (not in PA, though) – September is also Locavore Month.