Why Food Insecurity Matters

In the news, you often hear newscasters going on about globalization and trade and jobs and technology and prices and companies. Today’s economy has so many moving parts, new industries, and people to satisfy.

With so much going on, it’s difficult to know what’s important — it’s easy to get lost in the clouds of stock market numbers and conflicting opinions and talking heads. As we debate and argue however, the world keeps spinning — innovating and consuming on a scale never before seen.

For some, this fast moving world is great. So much opportunity, hope, and excitement. The booming tech industries seen in California and around the world are pumping out innovation after innovation, creating new job opportunities and entire industries in such short time. For others, a very different reality exists — one that is scary and far less certain. We have trouble on the home front, and many Americans are suffering. This trouble is too easily overlooked and represents something many of us take for granted every single day: having quality food to eat.

Trouble on the Home Front

How can food still be a problem in the 21st century? After all, we’ve had a Green Revolution and we’re seeing all this cool, new tech — surely most Americans can at least afford a basic, nutritious meal…right?

Not quite. A staggering 13% of Americans live in what is called a “food insecure” home.

What does that mean — food insecure?

The United Nations estimates over 800 million people around the world are “in the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” Put it another way — for some reason, people aren’t getting the food that they need. While this problem is global and the vast majority of food insecure people are in developing countries, the issue still very much exists in the United States and not enough people are acting on it. We may feel distant from this problem — normally thinking about “third world” countries when we think about chronic lack of access to food. Sadly, many of our friends and neighbors suffer quietly — many not having a grocery store within walking distance, and may be struggling between the choice of putting food on the table or paying the rent, or are led to buying cheap, non-nutritious fast food. This issue isn’t as far away as it seems. It’s right in our backyard.

The San Joaquin Valley is one of the richest agricultural economies in the world, yet so many of its people go without food every day.

The Recession and a Growing World

The American Housing Crisis hit the Merced area hard — being labeled as the epicenter of the Recession. Though various communities came together and ultimately persevered, others are still living in the harsh reality of 2008.

Many families were just one hiccup away from financial ruin — and when the recession hit — many families had to tighten their belts and cut costs, sometimes being forced to make very hard decisions of where to spend their money. Although many regions have long since recovered from the crisis, areas like Merced — not 2 hours driving from the Silicon Valley — have long been forgotten, left to starve in the wake of a world that keeps moving forward.

81 food pantries are part of the Food Bank’s network — these strategic partnerships help us work towards our goal of reducing food insecurity.

Distributing 4.4 million pounds of food in 2015, supplying 10% of the Merced County population, we and our partners (more than 200 individual donors, various corporate partnerships, and generous farms) have stepped up to feed those quietly enduring the tough times with filling, nutritious food.

Though the San Joaquin Valley of California is the most productive agricultural economy in the world, the human population is set to increase by over 3 billion people in just over 30 years — meaning we’ll have many, many more people to feed. What communities like ours are doing to band together and end food insecurity may not be enough. The known struggles of cities like Chicago, New York, and New Orleans — the problems of Merced, will only become worse with tensions caused by the rapid expansion of urban and suburban populations. Food insecurity is manageable. However, as we will have more and more mouths to feed, the ability to feed those who have fallen on hard times will only become more difficult. We need to keep building community capacity to prevent food insecurity from hurting more families, friends, and neighbors — and we — the Merced County Food Bank — will do what we can to help make that happen.