Sunday, October 20, 2013

Healthy. Sustainable. AFFORDABLE. Fair. (Part III)

For two years, I lived in the remote community of King Salmon, AK. There were 400 residents and one road, which led 16 miles to the coastal town of Naknek, with 600 residents. If you were a resident for at least a year, you could get a subsistence fishing license that allowed you to take almost 1,000 salmon, of various types, from the Naknek River and its mouth. This provided a great and almost free source of protein, and if you had the patience, you could gather gallons of blueberries and cranberries from the six-inch-high tundra berry "bushes" for vitamin C. Everything else, however, was flown in via Anchorage or barged in on one of six or seven massive barges that circled around the tip of the Aleutians once a month when the weather allowed.

In other words, food was expensive. Eight dollars for a gallon of milk and seven for a loaf of bread or box of cereal. That kind of expensive. By the time produce reached us, it was long past its prime, but still outrageously priced.

We were a one-income family at that point and even that was an entry-level salary, so we learned tough lessons about affordable food, or lack thereof.

It is a lesson that many Americans live every day, not just for two years because of an extreme location. One in four children in the United States live in food-insecure households, meaning that the adults in their life don't always know where the next meal is coming from. In households considered "very insecure", adults are often skipping meals on a regular basis.

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food..." and yet, around the world, many people do not have access to adequate healthy food for themselves and their children.

This year, a high-profile film, A Place at the Table, focused attention on hunger in America. Part of the aim of the film makers is to make Americans as dedicated to ending hunger as they were in the past. Our political leaders have cut funding to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a federal program that supplies a maximum of $1.50/meal to low-income Americans) and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children, a program that supplies healthy foods to pregnant and nursing mothers and children under the age of five). People who use these programs are demonized in the public conversation about these cuts, despite the fact that most "facts" presented in these arguments are actually myths. One myth is countered in the image above; for more of the myths and misconceptions about the hungry, read this article that includes the entire infographic.

Because of the rhetoric surrounding the hungry in the media, there is a stigma attached to needing nutritional assistance. People don't want to be seen going into a food bank; they don't want their neighbors to know they are unable to feed their families.

In Del Norte and the adjacent tribal lands, there are people who cannot afford to buy adequate food for their families. There are people who live more than an hour's drive from the nearest supermarket. Most of DNATL is classified as a food desert. There are people who need help, but don't seek it for fear of what people will think.

Food Day is not just about a single day each year. Food Day is an ongoing attempt to make our food system better for everyone. Wouldn't it be great if, because of work we do over the next year, everyone in DNATL would have enough healthy food by the time Food Day rolls around next October 24th?

To join this conversation and action, please come to a Community Food Council meeting, follow this blog, "like" us on Facebook, and help our neighbors. As a community, we are only as strong as our weakest members: Shouldn't we work to make everyone strong?

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