When you consider the plight of those without enough to eat, your first thoughts might be of those in faraway lands, but the sad truth is that you don’t have to travel very far to find individuals and families for whom hunger and food insecurity are very serious problems.
According to the USDA’s 2o1o Hunger report, nearly 7% of your fellow Oregonians went hungry at some point during 2009. And according to the Oregon Food Bank, those numbers have continued to rise in the years since. Ever since the “Great Recession” struck, the number of emergency food boxes distributed by the network has increased by nearly 50%. Inability to find steady employment has seriously compromised many citizen’s access to fresh, healthy food.
That’s a serious problem. Hunger can lead to irreversible health issues, learning difficulties, and a lack of physical and mental development in children. Hungry adults are not much better off. It’s difficult to work productively on an empty stomach, and putting your best foot forward at a job interview is hard to do when your children are on the brink of starvation.
It may surprise you to know that we Americans generate more than 34 million tons of food waste every single year. And it’s not all egg shells, banana peels, and spoiled milk. A large portion of it is perfectly good, nutritious food; just what those experiencing hunger are in such desperate need of.
It’s not that there’s not enough food for those in need; it’s simply that the food distribution network is inefficient, and is not designed to deliver surplus nourishment to those in need.
That’s where Urban Gleaners comes in. This small, Portland-based organization collects excess food from local restaurants, farms, grocers, and growers, and gets it to the people who need it most.
Urban Gleaners’ Food to Schools program provides healthful meals to children who might not otherwise have access to them. They deliver fresh produce, whole-grain breads, and other goodies to schools, where they are sorted by volunteers and distributed to families experiencing food insecurity. During the summer, Urban Gleaners’ Free Farmer’s Markets ensure that vacation doesn’t mean starvation for children who rely on school lunches for sustenance.
The Urban Gleaners Community Garden produced more than 400 lbs of fresh organic produce during the last growing season, on land donated by Portland Parks and Recreation.
Food deserts are communities that lack access to fresh healthy food. Urban Gleaners is bringing the freshness to these communities through their Mobile Market, a van loaded to the roof with quality produce, dairy products, canned goods, and more.
Whether you’re a food grower with more kale than you know what to do with, or just someone with some spare time that you’d like to dedicate to making life better for your fellow Oregonians, Urban Gleaners could use your help. Getting involved is a simple way to do an awful lot of good. Check out their website at urbangleaners.org for more information.
[Photo Credit: Urban Gleaners]