Hunger and Food Justice: Community Building for Food Equality

blog_title_image_hungerjustice
Image Source: Flickr

Hunger: it’s a daunting problem the world over. Even though I was eager to research and write on this topic, when I started to dig into it, I got more and more overwhelmed with how broad and profound the issue is. The stark facts saddened and discouraged me.

In the United States, almost half of all food is wasted, while 1 in 4 go hungry.

Here’s what shocked me the most: 16.2 million children in the U.S. are without adequate food and nutrition. And we know poor nutrition in early childhood causes lifelong problems with mental and physical development (Journal of American Medical Association, 2013).

It’s hard to believe it happens at home. Many American families can’t adequately feed their own children. Parents and grandparents have had to choose between paying heating bills or putting a meal on their table. When I read through stories on the Feeding America website, many moved me to tears. Not just because of the sadness of the situations, but also because they were stories of hope. I learned that food banks are a pretty wonderful resource. They connect community members with life-saving food supplies, and even offer health and nutrition based programs for people with special health concerns like diabetes.

Then I started to think: what can I realistically do—locally— to help?

Outside of governmental programs, I knew that taking a holistic approach, including equitable food distribution, sustainable agricultural practices, and nutrition education was the most positive way to make a difference in the fight to end hunger. That’s when I discovered the Food Justice movement .

I didn’t know much about this community-based movement, but the name alone made me feel empowered and reminded me that hunger is actually a social justice issue. I started checking out local groups involved in this activism.

Food Justice is the right of every person to have access to fresh, nutritious food. Food justice groups are caring individuals who create food production techniques that are healthy and sustainable (often in underused public spaces); raise awareness; teach waste reduction; and offer nutrition programs, gardening and other resources for schools and communities. These are actions anyone could take to make a difference in the world.

So what am I going to do, now that I’ve educated myself about hunger? I’ve signed up to volunteer with the Oakland-based organization Planting Justice. I’ve promised myself I will be more mindful and less wasteful about the food I bring home, and I may try building my own food-producing garden…even if it is just one basil plant and one rosemary plant for now! One step at a time, right?

How you can get started

vegetablesHere are a few Food Justice-focused charities working to bring together nutritional resources, sustainable food production and distribution practices, and community growth:

There are also some wonderful organizations helping end hunger on a broader scale, in schools, and around the country and world:

The organization’s No Kid Hungry campaign is focused on ending childhood hunger.

Other things we can all do to help combat hunger, waste and food inequality:

  • Practice economical food usage. Store leftovers and freeze or donate the extra.
  • Volunteer our time at community gardens and food banks.
  • Raise awareness by educating ourselves and talking with our friends, family and neighbors. It’s the first step to building strong communities.

-Alex Mechanic

Customer Service Manager

Skin Cancer: Know Your Risks and Check Your Skin

Skin Cancer: Know Your Risks and Check Your Skin
image source: flickr

This weekend, my daughter and I went to a pool party. I was wearing: long white pants, sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and approximately 10 gallons of SPF 45. Obviously, I looked amazing.

This is what happens when you’re a fair-skinned redhead and burn the moment the sun rises. I must admit, though—as much as I hate having legs so white they blind people, it is sort of a blessing. Sunscreen is not optional for me. As a result, I’ve had to be responsible about my skin all my life.

If I’d been born with my daughter’s skin, I might have been more daring. She has the most gorgeous olive-colored skin I’ve ever seen, and doesn’t seem to burn. Putting sunscreen on a toddler is no fun at all (it’s sort of like trying to catch a fish with your hands), but it’s 100 percent worth the effort—she may not burn easily, but it’s simply too dangerous to go without protection.

image source: flickr
image source: flickr

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world and more than 2 million cases will be diagnosed this year. Consider the statistics:

  • One bad sunburn doubles your chances of developing melanoma.
  • Melanoma is the second most common cancer in children and teens, and one of the most common in young adults.
  • Fair skin and red hair mean you have a higher risk of getting skin cancer.
  • You’re also at a higher risk if you have more than 50 moles, a weakened immune system, or a family history of skin cancer.
  • Tanning beds are very dangerous: One indoor tanning session in young adults increases melanoma risk by 20 percent. The risk of basal cell carcinoma increases by 25 percent after only one to two indoor tanning sessions. The risk soars to 73 percent after six or more sessions.

The statistics are depressing, but the good news is, you can help yourself (and others):

  • Wear sunscreen. No excuses. Yes, it’s a pain to apply, but it’s worth it. I like a spray sunscreen– it makes application a lot easier.
  • Avoid the sun during peak hours. Never use tanning beds.
  • Check your own skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation’s step-by-step guide tells you how.
  • Have a doctor check your skin. Visit a dermatologist if you find a rough, sandpaper-like patch, discover a new mole, or have a mole that has changed color, shape, or has started bleeding.

Now that you know how to protect yourself, help others. What we know about skin cancer is, for the most part, because of the work of skin cancer-focused organizations. Give today so they can continue their work, saving millions of lives.

image source: flickr
image source: flickr

You can also help with cancer research yourself. I recently signed up to participate in Cancer Prevention Study-3 through the American Cancer Society. If you’re between the ages of 30 and 65 and have never had cancer, please sign up for this long-term study. We will only stop cancer if we continue to support research, and fund programs searching for a cure.

Enjoy your summer…and don’t forget that SPF!

—Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager

Saving lives, large and small

My family always had pets. Cats, dogs, birds, fish, and a hamster named Lucky. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love animals. I vividly remember my first trip to the shelter. We adopted a kitten, who became my best friend. But I left wondering why we couldn’t take them all home … “Who will take care of them if I don’t?” When I got older, I made my first donation to the ASPCA, and 10 years later I’m still an active member.

Animals enrich our lives in countless ways. They provide security and safety to those with disabilities, comfort and companionship to young and old. A recent article by The National Institutes of Health featured the health benefits of owning a pet.  “The bond between animals and humans is part of our evolution, and it’s very powerful,” says Dr. Ann Berger, a physician and researcher at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Every May since 1915, the Humane Society celebrates “Be Kind to Animals Week.” It has become a month-long campaign to raise awareness about the profound connection between animals and humans. Join me in taking action to protect, defend and celebrate the lives of all animals, large and small. There are many ways you can help:

Give

In response to the current housing crisis, the Humane Society set up a “foreclosure pet fund” to provide financial assistance to pet owners facing eviction. This fund has distributed more than $100,000 to 57 regional shelters and animal rescue clinics. Your $10 or $25 donation helps set up pet food banks, assists with the cost of temporary boarding, and reduces the costs of emergency medical care. Or you can support your local animal shelter, or give to an organization that prevents cruelty to animals.

Speak Up

In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 2 – legislation that will prevent farm animal cruelty, ensure health and food safety, support family farmers, and protect our air and water. I recently called my state representative to urge a yes vote on two important bills – CA A.B. 241, to crack down on puppy mills, and CA A.B. 233, to offer a tax deduction for adopting shelter pets. Find out about current legislation in your state, and vote to give animals a voice.

Volunteer

Every other weekend I volunteer with FOCAS. My local pet store lets the organization set up an adoption center for shelter cats. Even if you only have a few hours a month, Volunteer Match makes it easy to find an animal organization near you.

Teach

Share your love of animals with children, and they will grow up knowing what it means to care and be compassionate towards others. Read through 50 Ways to Save Animals with your kids today and make a difference for animals tomorrow.

Pass the message along to friends with furry, feathered or fishy family.

– Sarah Myers

Program Manager