Home » Op-Ed: Ending food insecurity requires power in numbers

Op-Ed: Ending food insecurity requires power in numbers

by Vincent James, Dare to Care President and CEO

Nutritious food is a basic human right. Healthy meals nourish our minds, fuel our bodies and are fundamental to our ability to thrive. However, millions of Americans are food insecure or lack consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Far too many people simply do not know with any certainty where their next meal is coming from. Kentucky has the highest rate in the nation of food insecurity among older adults at 17.3%, well above the 10.6% national rate for that age group. For 1 in 7 Kentucky adults and 1 in 5 Kentucky children, hunger is a daily experience. The number of food insecure households in our region continues to increase as households face growing economic pressures.

Demand at our food banks is at an all-time high and our team is providing more meals now than during the height of the pandemic. Due to rising inflation, several of our pantries are seeing upwards of 30% more visits to their sites, with some seeing numbers doubled in recent months. Our daily challenge is to decrease these alarming numbers.

However, during September, we bring even more attention to this problem through Hunger Action Month; this month marks an annual nationwide campaign designed to raise awareness and inspire action.

Last year, Dare to Care served more than 19 million meals to the community and made 900 stops with our mobile food pantry. But we didn’t do it alone. Working with nearly 300 community partners, we provided more than eight million pounds of fresh produce to families in need across 13 counties in Kentucky and Indiana. Our hunger-fighting partners include churches, community centers, food pantries, shelters, large corporations and more.

My roles as pastor and the former chief of community building for the city have each reinforced my belief that there is power in numbers. We can accomplish many things if we work together as an entire community rather than alone.

We can also achieve our goals and increase our impact by using data to guide smart decisions.

With the Six Sigma training I received early in my career, I am excited to lead us in analyzing processes and outcomes that provide better solutions for the people we serve. Using predictive analytics in our food distribution processes will help us better understand our community needs so we can reimagine our sourcing structure. This means we can work more efficiently to meet the needs of more food insecure people. Again, there is power in numbers.

My vision for the future is to shift our operations toward a client choice model, meaning Dare to Care or a partnering agency will be set up like a grocery store. This model will allow people to

choose the food they want. I believe when we provide choices for people, we are helping to preserve people’s dignity.

To ensure a future where food insecurity no longer exists, we need direct support and buy-in from many key partners. We must work together with local and state elected officials to prioritize funding for important nutrition programs. We must continue to grow our partner network to include more organizations that can share their resources. And we must find a way to engage every individual who wishes to support our mission.

For Hunger Action Month, I ask our community to join Dare to Care and our partners in our fight to end hunger in Kentuckiana. Here is how to get involved:

  1. Volunteer: Dare to Care offers many opportunities to volunteer year-round. Consider donating your time to one of our food pantries or kitchen partners, or even in our warehouses.
  2. Donate: Every dollar donated helps provide three meals for our community. Last year, more than $700,000 was raised during Hunger Action Month thanks to our volunteers, donors, sponsors and ambassadors who helped make this possible.
  3. Raise awareness: The fight to end hunger begins with understanding the issue. Follow us on social media to learn more, engage in the conversation and share information with your network.

While Hunger Action Month occurs only in September, food insecurity is experienced all year. As a community, we can meet our obligation to feed people today and work to eliminate food insecurity across Kentuckiana to ensure a brighter future for all.

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