By Rita Singh
One in six people experience hunger in the United States. That is nearly 50 million people in our own communities across the country. This unsettling fact is why the work of the Hunger Free Communities Network is so critical. This nation-wide platform for hunger relief initiatives in local communities within the United States encourages partnerships in the fight to end hunger.
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to participate in the Hunger Free Communities Summit 2014 organized in Washington, DC. The Summit brought together more than 150 attendees from grassroots organizations, industry, government, and non-profits from across the country. Leaders from organizations including the National Future Farmers of America (FFA), Feeding America, and Share Our Strength shared their insights on the common goal of addressing hunger across the U.S. From engaging young leaders to designing and implementing solutions to supporting community gardens to improving nutrition in urban areas, innovative initiatives are harnessing the skills of a diverse set of partners to build the capacity of our local communities to combat hunger.
During the summit, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel discussion on how to connect the agriculture sector with communities and stakeholders focused on addressing hunger. I was joined by four accomplished and knowledgeable leaders on the panel: Lesly Weber McNitt from the Farm Journal Foundation; Sharon Thornberry from the Oregon Food Bank; Greg Schneider, the FFA Advisor for Southwestern High School; and Jan Ahlen from the National Farmers Union.
We spoke to an enthusiastic audience about how we can support the work of farmers and link it to community initiatives. We each agreed that all community members need to support a system to engage farmers and other key players in the sector in the hunger solution. Through improved communication and infrastructure we can effectively use our resources, skills, and energy to address both rural hunger and its causes.
With all the talk about the importance of engaging key stakeholders and fostering partnerships, I kept reflecting on the hard work and generosity of farmers who are already working towards combating hunger. As of December 2013, $1,286,000 has been distributed to more than 60 food banks across rural America through the Invest an Acre program. This has a meal equivalent of 3,858,000 meals provided to those in need across rural America.
Such inspiring conversations and current efforts give me hope that by working together we can achieve so much more, including hunger free communities.