Hungry for change: Ideas for tackling food insecurity

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by Eric Ginsburg

Everybody is talking about it.

The Triad has long struggled with food insecurity and hunger, suffering from relatively high unemployment rates, prolific food deserts and crippling poverty. With the Greensboro-High Point metro area recently jumping from No. 2 to the top spot for food-hardship rates across the country, attention, concern and alarm have risen considerably. And things aren’t much better in Winston-Salem, where food hardship is still embarrassingly prevalent.

It would be easy to feel powerless, like the problem is too big to have an impact upon. It’s clear that the root of the issue is about much more than a need for more food drives and pantries, but lies in an economic system that disadvantages a significant portion of the population. Food insecurity is inseparable from larger issues of poverty, access and power, making it challenging not to be overwhelmed and immobilized by the breadth of the problem.

But this area desperately needs solutions, and hands to put new ideas in place. That’s why Triad City Beat asked dozens of people what can be done, including existing local approaches that people may not be aware of and new concepts that could work here. Activists, chefs, farmers, community volunteers, politicians and everyday people offered their intellectual prowess and personal experiences.

A garden in Warnersville for the Mobile Oasis
A garden in Warnersville for the Mobile Oasis

Recurring themes emerged — many people suggested something akin to the Mobile Oasis, a movable farmers market that sprung up recently in Greensboro. Ads for it now decorate some city buses.

There were countless surprises and moments of heartbreak in the interviews. One woman who organizes for food justice said years ago she had worked a minimum-wage job, and with college debt and no car, she was too proud to seek help or unaware of options for support, instead living off a bag of white rice for months.

More organizing is happening locally around food than many realize; people mentioned obscure groups like the Greensboro Permaculture Guild and extended invitations to meetings including one at Piedmont Area Rapid Transit’s offices or an upcoming forum in east Greensboro organized by the city.

TCB doesn’t have the space to run all of the ideas people shared — rather than attempting to compile an exhaustive list, our goal is to keep the issue of food insecurity in front of people, share innovative approaches that are being implemented and highlight some ways that people could get involved in improving our cities. The best resources are the people and organizations that are already diligently tackling food hardship, food insecurity and hunger, and we recommend reaching out to them to join the struggle.

We also strongly encourage our readers to continue sharing ideas, resources and experiences in the comments section below.

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