Yesterday, the California State Board of Food and Agriculture convened in Fresno to discuss the issue of hunger and food access in the Central Valley. It’s shocking, that the most productive agricultural region in the United States also has one of the highest levels of food insecurity. California’s great Central Valley is only one example of a national problem – 50 million Americans (1 in 6) are food insecure, and this includes 1 in 4 American children.
We can do something about this and California farmers and ranchers are leading the charge. Through organizations such as Ag Against Hunger and Hidden Harvest, products from California fields are being offered in food banks around the state. The Farm-to-Family program, part of the California Association of Food Banks, works directly with growers to source product and make it available for individuals in need. These programs are just the beginning and they do not count the individual efforts of farmers, the great role of faith-based communities, and the work that local farm bureaus, farm organizations and communities are doing to address the issue.
Sometimes a simple idea can grow into an elegant and powerful solution – such as the suggestion at the board meeting that farmers dedicate a row or an acre to help feed their communities. At the State Board we are working to double farm contributions to food banks by the year 2015 – that would be 200 million pounds annually for food insecure families. California with more than 81,000 farms can easily accomplish this goal.
Our meeting was truly inspirational as it brought together a diversity of stakeholders (farmers, food banks, and faith-based communities) to address the issue of hunger and food access in the Valley. I’m hopeful that the personal connections made at this meeting are helpful in furthering the great work that California is doing to combat hunger.
In closing, a documentary that was released earlier this year, A Place at the Table, really provides context on the issue of hunger and food access. I encourage you to watch this film and become involved in your local community to help address an issue that is prevalent in all of our neighborhoods.