Food insecurity in the Bay Area needs to be eradicated
By Daisy Ding
When I was little, I was very picky with my food. Whenever I told my mom I didn’t want to eat the food she prepared, she would tell me to think of the starving children in Africa. Perhaps this is what gave me the false pretense that everyone in Africa is starving while all the children in the Bay Area only ever heard of hunger in stories told by others.
But as I grew older, I began to realise how wrong my assumptions were. I realized that even in the center of the tech hub and economic powerhouse, 1 in 4 people are at risk of hunger, according to the Second Harvest of Silicon Valley.
The reality is that physical inability to access nutritious foods as well as financial barriers and societal pressures are the main causes for the large population facing food insecurity; thus to solve this crisis, everyone – from governments, to organizations, to individuals – needs to do their part.
Although some may argue that the government is already fulfilling its responsibility by funding food programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), standards of eligibility for SNAP preclude most Bay Area residents that are in need of help from receiving aid. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, one in ten Bay Area residents does not earn enough to cover the cost of living, yet 62 percent of that population earns too much to qualify for SNAP.
Jeremy Loader, an employee at the Second Harvest Food Bank, agrees that the cost of living in the Bay Area is a major factor to food insecurity in the Bay Area. “With rent being such a high proportion of many people’s income, it doesn’t leave enough money for necessities like food,” Mr. Loader said. Evidently, in order to solve the issue of food insecurity, the government needs to address the high cost of living in the Bay Area.
On the other hand, businesses and organizations also have a role to play in the fight against hunger. Mr. Loader said, “We ask that every individual, organization, corporation, community group within Silicon Valley consider partnering with us to help support the most vulnerable in our community with the vital needs such as food.” Partnering can be done through holding food drives, providing corporate sponsorships, and more.
Other than supporting food banks, organizations can also support the cause in other ways. In recent years, volunteer organizations such as Food Runners have been using innovative methods to fight this issue. In order to address the large amounts of food that is often thrown away at companies, colleges, and restaurants, Food Runners delivers the excess food to those in need. According to their website, Food Runners serves more than 20,000 meals each week by saving more than 17 tons of food from being thrown out.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, resolving the issue of food insecurity relies on Bay Area residents. Every individual has the power to contribute to this fight, be it by reducing the stigma against asking for help, volunteering at a local food bank, or just being a kind neighbor and lending a hand to those in need.
Volunteers are always needed at food banks and non-profit organizations that aim to provide food assistance. Mr. Loader specifically advises individuals to pitch in by first finding a starting place. “Choosing some area to contribute and starting there, whether it be volunteering, donating food, but really pitching in and supporting the community where you’re able to. That’s a starting place,” Mr. Loader said.
Some people are doubtful of whether the situation necessitates government, organization, and individual action be it consciously or unconsciously. According to Psychology Today, people tend to associate those that rely on food banks with words such as “lazy” or “useless”. In some ways, those facing food insecurity are thought of as the “less-than-worthy” population of society. Yet in reality, this is not the case at all. Those that rely on food banks tend to be hard working people that are serving you your meals, cleaning up your work space, or ringing up your items at the cash register. The fact that these diligent people are struggling to make ends meet is not a reflection of their inability to contribute to society; it is a reflection of society’s faulty and ineffectiveness. It is this stigma against poverty that prevents many from receiving help from food banks. Instead of furthering this stigma and shaming people for something that’s not within their control, we need to be aware of the struggles of those facing food insecurity, as well as educate ourselves and those around us on the issue of food insecurity.
All in all, food insecurity is a major issue that impacts many people in the Bay Area. However, if everyone pitches in, little by little, we can eradicate this problem.
FEATURED IMAGE (at top of post): For many in the Bay Area, an empty plate at dinnertime is a familiar sight. PHOTO CREDIT: Daisy Ding