Hunger Does Not Exist in a Vacuum

Mary McClintock

As the Community Collaboration Coordinator for Community Action Pioneer Valley, I use my skills, experience, and passion to help our community come together to solve problems. One of these problems is food insecurity.

Each person arriving at a food pantry has their own unique reason for being there. Perhaps they were injured and can no longer work, or their child’s medical emergency wiped out their savings, or their house burned down, or their car broke down and they lost their job after missing work too often, or their medicine costs so much they have to skip meals to pay for it, or working two jobs isn’t enough to afford a home. Or, they’re teenagers who left abusive homes. Or elderly people whose past work paid immediate bills but didn’t allow for savings. Many are young children.

Each story is unique.

They ’re all the same.

Each is poor. Their income can’t cover their expenses. Some are poor for a short time, others live with low incomes their entire life. Poverty has many causes, including lack of living wage jobs and the high cost of housing, medical care, and utilities.

For decades, the focus of efforts to end hunger in the United States has been on feeding the immediate need of people who are hungry today. That’s what has built the system of food banks, food pantries, and community meals as well as programs like SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps). Feeding the immediate need is crucial, but until we address the root causes of poverty and hunger, we won’t be able to “shorten the line” of people at those food pantries and meal programs who are food insecure. To address food security in our community, we need to work to both feed the need AND shorten the line. Hunger does not exist in a vacuum… people are hungry because their jobs don’t pay a living wage, or too much of their income goes to pay for housing, medical care, heat, transportation and other basic living expenses. To shorten the line, we need to address these root causes of poverty and hunger.

Find out what you can do by taking a look at this list of actions created by the Franklin County Hunger Task Force for a working group series, Changing the Story: Overcoming Hunger in Our Community. The Task Force is a project of the Franklin County Resource Network sponsored by Community Action Pioneer Valley.