Oh, SNAP…we’re invading food deserts!

About two weeks ago, “Music City” was alive and pumping. Fans from around the world were traveling to Nashville, Tennessee, in droves for the Country Music Awards Music Festival. In the midst of fun and excitement, the everyday hustle for locals carried on.

Unfortunately, that also meant that hunger too, never missed a beat.

According to the USDA Food Research Atlas, 1 in 5 Nashville residents live in a food desert. This type of ‘desert’ is a geographic area where access to affordable, fresh food (such as produce), is not easily accessible.

With this knowledge, we were excited to drive over to the Parthenon Towers across from Centennial Park on Thursday, June 11 where we unveiled a brand new mobile market with our friends from Community Food Advocates. The swanky design of the truck looks similar to a tasty food truck you’d find in any downtown metro area during lunch. However, this renovated vehicle (featured above) was a new concept for The Nashville Mobile Market that doubles their fleet as a result of $35,000 gift through our KNOW Hunger Nashville project with the Urban League of Middle Tennessee.

Tyson_Foods_MobileMarket_Small-11

This month alone, The Nashville Mobile Market will make 49 stops with 23 different partner agencies. At each stop, local residents have access to nutritious food items, ranging from seasonal fruits like strawberries to veggies such as broccoli, and other pantry staples. Better still, shoppers have the option to purchase food with SNAP dollars.

We may be a meat company, but we know the importance in having access to a well rounded and nutritious meal. The ability to use SNAP benefits at this mobile market means it is one more convenience to help individuals and families facing tough times to stretch their dollar. Nashville Metro Council Members Burkley Allen and Erica Gilmore joined us in making a few remarks indicating the significance of such an expansion.

After children, elderly and disabled individuals are amongst the greatest percentage of SNAP recipients. Therefore, even with a grocery store a bus ride away from Parthenon Towers, many residents at this location are unable to travel due to limited mobility. The words of gratitude that were shared by frequent market patrons were overwhelming and confirmed our belief that helping to make the vision of Community Food Advocates a reality truly makes a difference.

The mobile market reveal was just the start of our trip. We also spent time with two important groups of leaders to talk about food insecurity in Middle Tennessee, and to challenge them.

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The first group included approximately 47 high school students enrolled in the Urban League’s College Readiness program. We emphasized that no one person represents hunger while discussing how food insecurity can affect performance in school and at work. In a classroom-made grocery store scenario, we “aged” two students a few years and challenged them to shop for themselves on a limited budget — similar to an individual who may receive SNAP. With nutrition in mind, both Ashanti and Michael made excellent choices that were balanced in diet, although budgeting was definitely a test. The room of students  was quick to chime in on what better decisions could have been made. In wrapping up the discussion, we encouraged students to be sensitive to others who may silently experience hunger and shared that even at their age. The takeaway was they too can be active in ways to fight hunger.

On Friday, June 12, we closed out the week with our second KNOW Hunger Challenge in Nashville. Our goal was to create awareness about hunger, offer SNAP and nutrition education while debunking myths about the federally funded program and its users. It was an honor to have been invited by the Alpha Delta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc., whose organization programs target health promotion, family strengthening and educational enrichment.  In addition to sorority members, the room of community leaders included Tennessee State Representative Brenda Gilmore, Councilwoman Erica Gilmore and Team Members from our Tyson Foods – Shelbyville location.

Competitiveness and camaraderie were in full effect as we sent the teams out on their shopping mission at a nearby grocery store. They were charged with shopping for a hypothetical family of four. Although many participants were longtime shoppers for their own families,  they still found the challenge to be eye-opening.  For example, one of the takeaways noted was the nutritional value in shopping more around the perimeter of the store, where one can find fresh produce, grains, bread, meats and dairy.

The challenge was also an appreciated reminder of the real-life challenge for those participants  whohave had to shop on a budget in the past but who can now shop more freely as they’ve advanced in careers. As we discredited the myth that all SNAP recipients are lifetime beneficiaries, we added that the experience is an opportunity to empathize and educate extended family or friends that may have fallen on tough times.

Speaking of tough times, all food purchased during the challenge was donated our friends at The Nashville Food Project who make it possible for hundreds of Nashvillians facing hardships to have a hot meal every day. Elanco sweetened the pot with an additional $500 gift card donation!

KNOW Hunger Challenge Winning Team

KNOW Hunger Challenge Winning Team

We know that hunger will not end at the SNAP of a finger. The fight against hunger is fought in the everyday battles of more than 110,000 Nashville residents. To overcome, it will take an evolving and committed group of strong individuals, playing different roles but working together as a team to help our neighbors get back on their feet so that our communities can win. We’re so fortunate in this campaign to have found great partners, each of whom in their own way bear arms to take down hunger and its barriers in Middle Tennessee.

 

Hunger in the Bay Area – and How You Can Help

 

Hunger is a serious problem in the Bay Area…
• Nearly 1.2 million people in the Bay Area (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma and Santa Cruz counties) are living near the poverty line, at risk of going hungry. According to census figures, these people are making less than $26,000 for a family of 3.
• The California Budget Project estimates that a family needs to make more than twice that amount – at least $53,000 – in order to make ends meet in the Bay Area. People who can’t get by often give up food to pay for vital expenses like medicine, or fixed expenses like rent.
• 50% of the people Bay Area food banks serve are children – and many live in working poor families.

The current economy is making things even worse…
• In addition to the region’s high cost of living, food and fuel prices have skyrocketed over the past year. Higher food and energy prices have put many more families into crisis, and they’ve had to turn to Food Banks to get the basics. Seniors on fixed incomes have been severely impacted, too.
• Nationally, eggs have increased 34% and white bread 15%, while milk prices in California have climbed 30% in the past year.  According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, gasoline prices in the Bay Area have gone up 36.4% in the past year.
• On top of dramatically higher food prices, the economic downturn has put even more families at risk of going hungry. All six Bay Area food banks are seeing increased numbers of clients in need, with longer lines at our grocery pantries. People often stand in line for hours to get food.

Government resources have been cut, making private donations crucial…
• Allotments of basic foods like rice, beans, and protein items from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Bay Area food banks have dropped 50% in the last 5 years – from over 14 million pounds in 2003 to just 7 million in 2008.


How the 6 Bay Area food banks help…

• Every day, Bay Area food banks source, collect, sort, inspect and repackage hundreds of thousands of pounds of food. The food comes from supermarket chains, large manufacturers, wholesalers, produce packers and growers, restaurant suppliers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and food drives.
• Last year Bay Area Food banks distributed 96 million pounds of food into their communities, this year they are distributing over 102 million pounds of food – up more than 6%.
• This year Bay Area Food banks will distribute enough food for 219,000 meals every day. It goes out to neighborhood grocery pantries, soup kitchens, programs that serve homebound seniors, and more.

Here’s how you can help…
• For every comment this post receives indicating it has been read, Tyson Foods will donate 100 pounds of high-quality protein (up to a total of 200,000 pounds) to the six Bay Area food banks. Help us fill the trucks! Comment here (even one-word comments acceptable. One comment per visitor, please.  NOTE: Since our comments are moderated, it might take a bit to get them up, but we WILL get them up). To prevent spam, the comment form asks for an email address. Tyson will NOT harvest these emails or use them in any way whatsoever.

• Visit the website of your nearest food bank to learn more about how you can donate, volunteer and advocate to help end hunger where you live:
San Francisco Food Bank
Alameda Community Food Bank
Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano
Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara & San Mateo Counties
Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz & San Benito Counties
Redwood Empire Food Bank
 
Many thanks to the Bay Area food bloggers who took on the San Francisco Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge. Without the attention they brought to this issue, Tyson’s donation would not have happened.
 

UPDATE!!!! As of Thursday, Oct. 2, less than one week after we began the effort, we reached our goal of 2000 comments, meaning ALL 200,000 pounds will be delivered to Bay Area Food Banks!  In fact, as of this writing, some of the food has already been delivered.  THANKS FOR ALL OF YOUR EFFORTS!

 

Since 2000, Tyson Foods has been actively involved in the fight against hunger, contributing more than 53 million pounds of food to hunger and disaster relief.  This site will tell you more about the company’s ongoing efforts. 

This just in: We’ve had quite a few requests from commenters that we send some vegetarian items.  While we’re primarily a  meat protein company, we do make pizza crust.  We’re sending along  a bit of that.

Hunger in Austin–Something you can do to help

Information from the website of the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas

Did you know

Making Ends Meet  

  • 76% of households receiving assistance from CAFB Partner Agencies report incomes below the federal poverty level. (Source: Hunger in America 2006: Central Texas Report, in association with America’s Second Harvest)
  • 106,930 (12.6%) of Travis County individuals live below the Federal poverty level ($18,850 for a family of four). (Source: Austin Community Survey, 2004)
  • The annual income needed for a Travis County family of four without employee sponsored health insurance to "afford" to live in the Austin area is $53,080. That’s 257% above the Federal poverty level. (Source: CPPP.org, The Family Budget Estimator Project)
  • Austin continues to have the highest cost of living in the state of Texas, exceeding housing costs in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Fort Worth.
    Those Served are Younger
  • While the child poverty rate in Texas is 23.2%, for the CAFB service area, 35% of the household members receiving food are children. (Source: Hunger in America 2006: Central Texas Report, in association with America’s Second Harvest)
  • While 12.4% of Texans in poverty are elderly, only 7% of households receiving food through CAFB are elderly. (Source: Hunger in America 2006: Central Texas Report, in association with America’s Second Harvest

Working Poor

  • Approximately 200,000, or 20%, of Travis County residents are classified as "working poor" by the Texas Department of Human Services.  (Source: Basic Needs Coalition, 2005)
  • Between 2000 and 2003, the number of households in Travis County increased by 23,274, the majority of which (21,822 households) fell in the lowest three income brackets having an annual income of $24,999 or less.
    Who’s Serving Our Hungry?
  • Of Food Bank Partner Agencies, 71% of pantries and 37% of the soup kitchens are run by faith-based agencies.
  • 59% of Partner Agency pantries and 12% of soup kitchens are entirely volunteer run with no paid staff.
  • CAFB is by far the most important source of food for its Partner Agencies, accounting for 76% of food for pantries and 38% for soup kitchens.
    (Source: Hunger in America 2006: Central Texas Report, in association with America’s Second Harvest)

 

No matter where you are, the statistics about hunger in your own community are just as compelling.

Find out how you can be a part of the great work of the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas and their mission of ending hunger in central Texas by visiting their site.  

Here’s something you can do today:  For every comment this post receives indicating it has been read, Tyson Foods will donate 100 pounds of food (up to a 35K pound truckload) to the HAM-up (Tweetup), sponsored by the Food Bank, Social Media Club Austin and 501 Tech Club Austin.  Help us fill the truck.  Comment here (even one-word comments acceptable–BTW, since our comments are moderated, it might take a bit to get them up, but I WILL get them up).

 UPDATE–The response from the online community has been awesome. From your response, we were able to fill the truck in less than six hours.  THANKS!!!!

The Art of the Cart–4

By Susan Brockway

The last two weeks have been a struggle for my adopted family.  She has lost some of her hours at work and is really struggling with fuel prices.  We have talked twice and shared 3 recipes.  I have made a commitment to her to share from my garden, which is finally in the ground after large spells of rain. 
I have been shopping 4 times and it continues to amaze me what people of all socioeconomic groups are putting in their carts and what is NOT being included.  Since I grew up in a home where we did not spend money on the limited non-nutritious food that was available, I am still saddened when I see struggling moms and dads so tired after working two or three jobs, spending money they don’t have on packaged meals with little to no nutrition.  What is the answer? 
I am still optimistic that working one-on-one with families will help.  I have heard from some of you who have also done the same.  Maybe a grassroots movement is what we need to look at in the future, making a difference one person at a time and then empowering them to do the same.
In addition, flooding in the Midwest is going to be a repeat crisis of New Orleans, but with a twist.  While driving through Iowa in the past week I saw green fields of rolling hills, and picture perfect farms.  Cities like Cedar Rapids and Iowa City have experienced more water than ever intended, and the real victims are going to be middle class families who thought they were insured, but will find there is nothing to start over with.  Many of their homes will be much like those in New Orleans, inhabitable. 
We will have people screaming for reasons why this happened, while we have not yet addressed why it happened in a city of rich in tradition and music and culture almost three years past.  Having spent a good deal of time in states hit by Hurricane Katrina, I can tell you the only difference between what people feel in the lower ninth ward and Cedar Rapids is a change of zip code.  I predict food banks and their agencies are going to see an increased surge of people needing resources, only to find their federal state dollars cut because someone is going to have to pay the billions, not millions needed to get people back on their feet.  And this, like Katrina is going to be a multi-year financial nightmare.
My family in Northwest Arkansas, much like families hit by Katrina and now the floods and tornadoes of 2008 have one thing in common:  They are hardworking and trying to make ends meet. 
My question for you today:  What can you change today to make a difference?  Let me hear from you…agree to disagree, but get in the game while we have a game to play.