You already know that the food system refers to the production of food, policies surrounding food in communities, and our consumption habits. But what happens when our food system is not sustainable or equitable and cannot provide enough food for everyone? Unfortunately, this is the reality across America and the world today.
In 2015, over a million people in Arizona were food-insecure, meaning they do not know when or from where their next meal will come. In 2015, more than 13 million children in our country lived in food-insecure households, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Emergency food systems are programs and services that provide a temporary solution to families experiencing hunger or food insecurity. These services take the form of food banks, pantries, soup kitchens and other initiatives to help provide food for families and individuals in need.
During the holiday season, there is usually an influx of interest and aid for these emergency food systems. Many people volunteer at soup kitchens and donate money to these organizations in November and December. This surge of interest and support wanes once the holiday season is over, but the number of hungry people in need of assistance in our communities doesn’t change year-round. When families in our neighborhoods are hungry, our entire community suffers.
Emergency systems rely on support that is needed year round, but how do we help prevent families from facing hunger in the first place? That is the question our team tries to answer every day through our work. There are steps you and your community can take to tackle this challenge every day.
First, it is important to continue support to our local emergency food programs. By giving money to organizations like Feeding America, volunteering your time and talents, and advocating to end hunger in your community, you can help create lasting solutions.
There are countless ways to get involved with St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, Valley of the Sun United Way, Phoenix Rescue Mission and more.
Ultimately, we must make our food systems sustainable and equitable. Emergency food systems are a temporary solution to hunger. In order to enact meaningful and lasting solutions, we must take a systems change approach (link to systems change blog). We must understand the root cause of hunger in our communities, and we must take a multifaceted approach on local levels. Stay tuned to our blog to learn more about what we are doing — and what you can do — to create sustainable, healthy food systems in Arizona.