Hunger in America is largely hidden, yet Feeding America’s 200+ foodbanks feed one out of 6 Americans. The USDA reports that in 2011, 46.7 million Americans—or roughly one of four adults — received food assistance from one of 15 federal programs. Here is the meal map.
This is amazing in so many ways: because when you have little money and less time, the cheapest, quickest thing to eat seems like the best.
Yet we know where highly processed food has taken the U.S. and Australia, and soon Mexico, Western Europe, and then South America, Asia, India and China: to insulin resistance, obesity, metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes and diabetes. Not to mention heart disease and breast cancer and colon cancer.
It’s a fact that some food–starchy, sugary, high glycemic index food makes you hungrier–in adolescents and adults. But millions of people have survived on soda and white bread and instant noodles and donuts. And when you’re hungry and have no time, other facts seem less relevant.
It may seem bizarre that obesity and its medical problems are so intimately related to hunger and food insecurity: that obesity and hunger are two sides of the same coin. And the global health burden from obesity is now greater than the global health burden from hunger, according to a huge Lancet study.
But there is a direct relationship: less money, less time, cheaper, lower quality food: more hunger, more highly processed food, more inflammatory food, more obesity.
The solution, as Jeff Bridges says above, and his wife Susan Bridges demonstrates in a video we shot for the FoodBank of Santa Barbara, is not just charity. It’s education, training and skill development. How to plant and maintain a household garden. How to cook what you get out of it. How to plan ahead for day-to-day food security.
And at a larger scale: how to link Foodbanks and health care organizations. How to create partnerships with clinics, pharmacies, health care systems. How to conduct simple health care screenings at food distribution sites, and offer healthier, non-disease-causing food for pickup and purchase.