Our mission at Taste Quest is to empower kids to nourish their bodies, their families, and their communities through play-based food education. When it comes to the “communities” piece, our goal is to equip kids with a mechanism through which they can address issues of hunger and food insecurity right from their own kitchen. As our organization grows and takes hold, we hope that every quest kids log with us leads to funds raised for food-focused nonprofits.

Empowering kids to rise to this challenge begins with some awareness. In the era of COVID-19, hunger issues are growing even more pressing than they already were. We want to see kids do something about this need, but first they must understand why the need is so great.

Our awesome teammate Jamilya Sharipova has put together a summary of current hunger needs and their context, as well as an interview with Courtney from Second Harvest Food Bank so we can learn more about the need in our community and the world at large. While the subject is neither fun nor easy to discuss, we nevertheless encourage you take what you can from this to share with your kids, and to talk with your kids about the challenges facing our communities, and always with the message that we CAN rise to those challenges.

GET THE LINGO…

FOOD INSECURITY: an inability to access enough food, nutrients, and calories. Millions of people are food-insecure both in developing and developed countries worldwide. It is a serious issue that particularly effects children, elderly, people with disabilities, and pregnant women. There are several reasons why food insecurity occurs: drought, fires, conflicts, political instability, food supply chain disruptions, and insufficient funds. A global pandemic causes many of these factors to hit at once.

FOOD DESERT: A food desert is an area that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food. These are regions, both urban and rural, that increase the potential for food insecurity.

GET THE NUMBERS

According to Global Food Report on Food Crises, 135 million people are struggling with acute food insecurity. 17 million children under 5 years old are acutely malnourished in 2019 across 55 developing countries.

According to Second Harvest, 1 in 8 Americans experience food insecurity, and this includes 1 in 6 children.

The pandemic makes all of this worse: 54 million adults and 18 million children (Feeding America) experiencing hunger in 2020 and this number can only be growing. Second Harvest says that the need they serve has increased 46%.

WHY THE PANDEMIC MAKES IT WORSE

The novel coronavirus disease has shocked vulnerable communities in both the developed and developing worlds, requiring immediate humanitarian food and nutrition assistance, especially in the areas with no capacity to respond to health and socio-economic devastations. It threatens the livelihoods of millions of people who were already facing long-term health effects of malnutrition. It also creates substantial distress within local economies, causing business bankruptcy and closures, inability to maintain stable employment, overburdened social services system, and expanding food deserts where small producers are no longer able to compete with bigger retailers. It leads to decreasing family income with consequent inaccessibility of health services and increasing reliance on food meal programs. Additionally, as schools and educational programs move to remote formats, children and families relying on free and reduced school meals have suddenly lost this resource.

Despite staple crops being fruitful in 2020, the movement restrictions necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19 disrupted the normal functioning of the food supply chain. Restaurants, schools, and large employers, who take up a large percentage of buyers for the food supply, are now not purchasing that supply, and much of it has been wasted, leading to an even bigger shortage for those experiencing hunger.

WHAT CAN BE DONE: An interview with Second Harvest’s Courtney Blaise

Non-profit organizations are getting busy, providing relief locally and nationally. Their dedication and amazing spirit help our communities to survive as those communities continue efforts to restore the economy. One of those organizations is Second Harvest whose hard work ensures that many families have regular meals and kids don’t hungry.

We had an honor interviewing Courtney Blaise, Director of Community Engagement at Second Harvest. Courtney does a lot of important work including fundraising and volunteer recruitment for the organization together with the other 16 colleagues in the department and over 100 people working for the organization in total.

Second Harvest’s mission is to feed hungry people and to solve hungry issues in the community. The organization is the second largest in the country, established initially in Phoenix, and has spread its angel wings all over the country to help those in need by saving, inspecting, and distributing food items to soup kitchens, pantries, and shelters. The organization is also advocating for a human right to access food resources and food equality. 

According to Ms. Blaise, since the pandemic hit the USA in March the demand has increased by 46%. This roughly translated into 1 million meals served on a daily basis in 2020. Sadly, the pandemic in Nashville coincided with the devastating effects of a tornado, which further increased need locally. In spite of these challenges, Second Harvest managed to distribute 17.5 million meals around the Nashville area, helping people who lost their incomes, housing, and health insurance.

The organization has a large warehouse facility and the ability to collect and distribute food items in an efficient manner to supply 46 counties in Tennessee, which is nearly half of the state. This means that there are always 23 trucks of Second Harvest circulating around to pick up food items from 200 grocery retailers who are part of any major grocery chain.

Ms. Blaise has praised the enormous support of steady corporate donations and the increase in individual donations. Every single donation results in ready meals for families around our communities as even small donations such $1 equals 4 meals. Second Harvest recognizes the difficulties our community will continue facing and appreciates donations in the form of volunteer hours, food boxes, meals, and other food items.

Ms. Blaise reassured us that everyone can help to make our community grow stronger. It may be difficult to ask for help, but it is not hard to offer support to those who are struggling with hunger. It only takes a little bit of kindness and compassion. 

If you see someone in need, you and your family can help! You can refer them to a local food bank or pantry, or provide a meal yourselves! It is found by numerous social studies that sharing meals with other people improves mood, increases an overall feeling of happiness, releases endorphins, and elevates the quality of life. We know it is hard to do it during a pandemic, but we still can do it by maintaining appropriate social distancing measures and wearing masks.

If you would like to contribute more to your local community, there are always many ways to help:

  1. Donate
  2. Volunteer
  3. Give

If you are looking to become a partner agency, contact Second Harvest for more information. By doing so, we will able to change the lives of many people.

Stay safe and strong.

If you would like to share information on food banks and food relief pantries in your area, please use the links below:

  1. Find a local food bank with Feeding America
  2. Find local food pantries
  3. Find a food pantry with Ample Harvest
  4. Call Why Hunger hot line (1-800-548-6479) to find information on local food assistance

Leave a Reply