The 2016 Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit will take place on Feb 26 and 27 at the University of Missouri in Columbia. The theme this year is “From Poverty to Promise.” The summit will bring students, faculty, and professionals together to explore solutions to hunger at home and abroad. It will feature interactive sessions, renowned keynote speakers, and ample opportunities for networking and dialogue. Invited guests will lead discussions on the connections between food security and health, policy solutions to domestic hunger, and addressing issues of stigma in vulnerable populations, among others. Registration is now open. Go to the summit registration web page to reserve your spot.
Grow Well Missouri is expanding! This winter, the project accepted applications from interested food pantries and community partners. The program will add six new food pantry partners in 2016. Each group will receive an assortment of cool and warm season bulk vegetable seed, materials for repacking and displaying the seed, attendance at a face to face orientation to learn how to run the program, and access to Grow Well Missouri educational materials. The supplies alone are valued at up to $1,200. Keep posted to hear about our progress.
Gardeners and farmers around Columbia, Missouri have another option for donating produce. Plant, Grow & Share launched this spring to link growers and hunger relief groups to increase donations of fresh, garden grown produce to low income families. Coordinated by Grow Well Missouri and supported by a host of local partners, the project pairs with ongoing activities at the Central Pantry aimed at helping food pantry customers get started in gardening or expand existing gardens.
To be involved, gardeners can go online to make a Produce Pledge and find contact information about hunger relief groups who accept donations of fresh produce. The project is also seeking additional hunger relief groups to participate along with partners to help spread the word. Regular updates are posted on Facebook.
A new publication by the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security, Healthy Shelves: Promoting and enhancing good nutrition in food pantries, was released in January 2015. This 24 page booklet offers tips and strategies for linking food pantries and community partners to get healthier food onto the shelves of pantries and into the homes of food pantry customers. With strategies based on more than two years of field work, the guide highlights nutrition improvement activities in the areas of Food Availability and Access, Food Consumption, Food Pantry Capacity and Development, and Food Acquisition and Distribution. Personal stories highlight the innovative work of pantry directors and partners committed to improving community health.
The complete booklet including supplemental materials can be downloaded from the Healthy Shelves home page. For more information, contact Bill McKelvey at McKelveyWA@missouri.edu.
Delving deeper into the issue of health equity, the Missouri Foundation for Health recently released Older Adult Health Disparities in Missouri. The report examines the physical and mental health issues faced by older adults along with barriers to quality care. As noted, by 2030, 21 percent of the population in Missouri will be 65 or older, compared with 14 percent in 2011. Given this demographic shift and the health challenges faced by this group, the report puts forward a number of service and policy options to better support the health and quality of life of older Americans.
The report is part of a Health Equity Series that also examines health disparities among African Americans, Hispanics, and the LGBT community.
The nation’s largest hunger relief charity, Feeding America, released the findings from a recent survey of member agencies and food pantry visitors. The report sheds light on the real life challenges faced by individuals and families in the U.S. struggling to make ends meet. Well over half of Feeding America client households have to make difficult decisions between paying for food and utilities, transportation, medical care, and housing. The report also confirms research of the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security showing that client households are more likely to have a member with high blood pressure or diabetes, compared to state or national averages.
Grow Well Missouri, a project of the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security that partners with food pantries to offer food gardening resources to pantry clientele, recently released the evaluation results from their 2013 gardening program. Despite some tough growing conditions around mid Missouri, nearly 90% of respondents noted that their gardens ranged from “very productive” to “somewhat productive.” The evaluation also showed that participants are very inclined to share their garden’s bounty with others. Eighty-eight percent of respondents shared produce with family, friends, and neighbors.
The complete Grow Well Missouri 2013 Gardening Program Evaluation Summary is available on the project’s webpage. For additional information, contact project coordinator Bill McKelvey at McKelveyWA@missouri.edu.
Looking for ways to engage food banks and anti-hunger allies in a meaningful dialogue about long-term solutions to hunger, the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona recently hosted the inaugural Closing the Hunger Gap conference in Tucson. Sessions featured innovative organizations that incorporate nutrition education, community organizing, policy, economic development, and local food production into their work. Discussions centered on the root causes of hunger and tangible ways food banks can work together to address the most pressing issues and needs of their clients. The conference concluded with an action planning session to build momentum for ongoing work and collaboration among attendees.
To keep posted or become involved, check out the conference materials and updates on the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona website and Facebook page. The Oregon Food Bank will host the next conference in 2015.
The Missouri Hunger Atlas 2013, recently released by the Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security, provides a county-by-county assessment of the extent of food insecurity in the state. The Atlas also measures the work of a host of public and private programs intended to help people struggling with hunger.
First issued in 2008, the Missouri Hunger Atlas is now in it’s third edition and features updated county tables and rankings, indicator maps, and trend analyses. A new feature of the 2013 edition is a Food Affordability measure. This measure estimates the percent of income required each week by households to meet average food expenditures in a given county.
The 2013 Atlas is available in whole or part and is easy to use and access by visiting the Missouri Hunger Atlas 2013 webpage.