Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Food Insecurity is a Human Being Issue

How a Battle Creek food market could be.
When it comes to food, sometimes I ask myself the question: “Who is hungry in Battle Creek?” While the question seems simple, the answer can be complicated. That’s because there are a lot of men, women and children who live here that are food insecure. That is, they don’t know where their next meal will come from.
Sure, there are shelters, churches, food pantries and other places where food items and/or meals are given away. But there are a lot of people who don’t have access to those places. They might be too old (or too young) to get there. Then there are the ones who don’t even know these places exist or where they are located.

Still others don’t have the means to get there. Sure, there’s public transit. But that assumes a person can afford bus fare. Some might say it’s only a couple bucks, tops, and most everybody can scrape together that much. There are also free shuttle services that’ll take you anywhere in town; all you do is call and schedule a pick up. And we all have a phone, right?

Wrong. So many times we make assumptions based on how we ourselves live. I remember a time in my distant past when I was first starting out. I was barely making a living in Los Angeles as a freelance writer and one day I was riding with a friend around lunchtime. The conversation went something like this:

Friend: “Let’s stop at Jack in the Box for some grub.”

Me: “Uh, let’s go somewhere else.”

Friend: “Com’ on, it’s right there; the food’s good and I’m starving.”

Me: “I can’t afford to go there.”

Friend: “Dude, you can get an entire meal there for five bucks. Who can’t afford that?”


In short, we stopped at Jack in the Box, my friend fronted me the amount I was short and we filled our bellies. End of story. Except it isn’t. Today for me, eating is like breathing; I don’t even think about it. I take food for granted. Rather, I take my ability to gain access to good food for granted. By the way, it was years before I got to a place where I didn’t have to think and plan and scrape to make sure I had enough to eat.

It can be easy to believe we know the reasons why people go hungry. No money is at the top of the list. That might translate into “no job,” which for some then translates into, “doesn’t want to work” – which in so many cases is absurd.

According to information from the Food Bank of South Central Michigan, one in eight Americans are hungry. Often, they are hard-working adults, children and seniors who just can’t make ends meet. The result? They go without food for several meals; sometimes for days.

I ask myself, “In a rich country like ours, with so much, why do we allow this?

Following a certain train of thought, I tell myself (or used to) that nobody really has to go hungry because there are safety nets in place that catch those with the most need.

Part of my work in the community is as Coordinator of Good Food BC. GFBC is a coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to informing and educating folks on issues related to food – in particular, access to fresh, affordable and nutritious food.

Malik Yakini: the food movement's Yoda
This Saturday, people interested in issues related to food are gathering at a community conference. It’s being held at the Calhoun Area Career Center. The keynote speaker is renown food activist Malik Yakini, Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. He will help shed light on the important human being issue of food security.

Please join us and bring your assumptions. However, be aware that what you learn may compel you to rethink who’s hungry in Battle Creek.  

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