Wasted... What Can We Do?by Brian McDermott on 08/23/12
Forty percent of food in the United States ends up in the garbage. Meanwhile 9 million older adults worry about where to get their next meal every day, as do another 36 million Americans of all ages. That's more than one out of every 10 people...
Gerry Sexton (my GrowthWorks partner) and I are facilitating a Hunger Summit in Virginia in September. It's sponsored by AARP, and targeted to specifically address food insecurity for older people in Virginia. We haven't even stepped in the room yet with the leaders convening to talk about what they can do together to solve this problem, but our eyes have been opened to a staggering problem. And it is clear it will take many hands and hearts to deal with this challenge.
Robert Egger, is founder of DC Central Kitchen, a paradigm-busting nonprofit that feeds thousands of hungry people and trains hundreds of homeless and unemployed workers in Washington, DC., using surplus food donated by restaurants and hotels that would otherwise go unused. Egger will be attending and speaking at AARP's Hunger Summit. In a conversation to prepare for working together, Egger said the aging of the U.S. population and the increasing challenges of poverty and hunger are part of an oncoming "silver tsunami," and not enough people and agencies are paying attention.
Change is happening, but more is needed.
Egger mentioned several "brilliant" examples of what's being done in some communities. In Richmond, he says, Meals on Wheels and the local food bank merged operations and brands to become Feed More. The Girls Scouts launched a global initiative in 2010 to help end extreme poverty and hunger worldwide. And DC Central Kitchen and volunteers in communities throughout the U.S. are striking deals to use school kitchens during idle hours to make meals for hungry families.
The big challenge, Egger says, is to rethink existing services. The sheer numbers of older adults and cultural changes about the perceptions of aging mean it won't work to simply jam more people into the same systems. Senior centers are reaching out with great services, he says, but people are not taking advantage. We need to understand why. The "pantry model" is based on the assumption everyone can get to a food distribution site and stand in line. That's less true today than just a few years ago.
Want to help? One way, Egger says, is to evaluate support services and resources already available in your community and to elevate the conversation. Spread the word. Research indicates, and Egger says his experience shows, there is an army of volunteers out there ready to be mobilized.
Additional Reading and Resources:
- Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill | New Report by the Natural Resources Defense Council
- How the US manages to waste $165 in food each year | Washington Post
- Five Things People Are Doing about Food Waste | National Public Radio
- A Brief on Senior Hunger in America | Meals on Wheels
- Second Harvest | A Minnesota Food Shelf Resource
- Feed My Starving Children | A Minnesota Organization that Needs Volunteers to Pack Meals to Fight Hunger Worldwide
Make a difference... and spread the word,