The pandemic alone did not cause food insecurity in the United States. According to the non-profit Feeding America, even before Covid-19 arrived, more than 37 million Americans across the country were already facing food insecurity, including more than 11 million children. This is ironic in the country considered as the greatest food producer in the world. With the pandemic, millions of families lost stable jobs. Hence, during the pandemic, food insecurity threatens over 42 million Americans, including 13 million children.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as the lack of adequate food for a healthy life. Feeding America highlights that this means a household-level lack of financial resources for food. This is different from hunger which describes physical discomfort.
Because food insecurity is a widespread problem exacerbated by the pandemic, several non-profits focus their efforts on it. Three of these are Feeding America, Bracken’s Kitchen, and The Outreach Program.
According to Feeding America, every year in the U.S., 108 billion pounds of edible, high quality, and safe food is wasted. About 40 percent of the food grown and processed in the country is not consumed but goes to landfills or incinerators. This is enough food to feed every American and is worth $161 billion a year.
Food waste happens when crops rot in fields because there is too much available, and putting all of them on the market will make the crops unprofitable. Food gets thrown away when it does not meet the standards of retailers in appearance. Food also gets wasted when there are problems in production or transportation. Furthermore, the uneaten food is often thrown away at stores, restaurants, and homes.
Feeding America is the largest food rescue organization in the country. It works with farmers, retailers, manufacturers, distributors, and foodservice companies to get food before it is wasted and deliver it while fresh to the organization’s network of food banks. Its MealConnect program matches food sources such as hotels, restaurants, caterers, and grocery shops with the nearest food banks, food pantries, or meal programs for quick pick-ups.
Bracken’s Kitchen: Catering for a Cause
Bracken’s Kitchen was founded by nationally renowned chef Bill Bracken, who has 35 years of experience in five-star hotels. He thought of a Food Truck Feeding Program as the solution to distributing food to the needy throughout Southern California. Instead of just providing food, the non-profit also has a Recovered Food Program and a Culinary Training Program. The three services are symbiotic.
The Recovered Food Program informs food growers, manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, vendors, restaurants, hotels, and grocery stores that they earn tax benefits by donating food to charity. It is, therefore, more profitable for them to do so rather than throw the food away.
These go into the production of healthy and tasty meals by students in culinary training. Their training enables them to serve fellow needy people and gives them a way out of poverty once they have acquired enough skills. The program believes in serving people food with respect, dignity, and pride.
To eliminate the steps in identifying the people who are most in need of food, Bracken’s Kitchen partnered with other non-profits such as Miracles for Kids, Working Wardrobes, and the Salvation Army. Together, they organize regular feeding events.
Also, to further fund the feeding program, Bracken’s Kitchen offers professional catering services from delivered meals to full event catering. All the profits from this endeavor go into the program.
The Outreach Program
The Outreach Program, founded by Floyd and Kathy Hammer, provides safe water, food, medical care, and children’s education to those in need of these in the United States and worldwide. It joined up with the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University to create nutritious and delicious meal packages with a long two-year shelf life. Each meal pack is filled in a modern automated process using equipment like the Servo volumetric filler machine. Each pack has six servings, and the seven variants include Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese Dinner, Fortified Rice and Bean Meal, Pasta with Italian Tomato Basil Sauce, Spanish Rice, Cheesy Rice, Minestrone Soup, and Instant Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal.
In 2013, the founders were awarded the 5,000th Point of Light Award by former President Obama. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals Artist and Athletes Committee also recognized the program and gave it the Global Empowerment Award.
Many Americans are still facing food insecurity that is not reached by these three non-profits and other similar organizations. They are providing good models that can be followed by others, though. In this context, becoming a copycat is a good thing. If their efforts give birth to many more endeavors with similar goals, perhaps no one will go hungry again.