VA: Social Change Brief

From my advocacy presentation:

Food is one of our most basic needs, but beyond just nutrients, food is at the core of our cultural and social beliefs about what it means to nurture and be nurtured. Food security—defined as access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life—is one of several conditions necessary for a population to be healthy and well-nourished.

No one in America should be food insecure. But every day, hard-working individuals and families face the choice between buying good food and paying for basic life necessities like rent, heat and electricity. In addition, unexpected day-to-day circumstances like a trip to the emergency room or the loss of a job can easily push a household into a state of food insecurity. Those close enough to poverty to apply for nutritional assistance have some options.

The government has been doing their part with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (or SNAP), encompassing all food stamps and EBT programs. Data from the Food and Nutrition Service of American tells us that more than 80 percent of the individuals that receive food stamps have children, and these families come from all walks of life. They are joined by proximity, in my case, all residents of urban Kansas City, and are part of a low-income demographic.

Government officials might like to think that the down-and-out of Kansas City are using food stamps to buy tomatoes at Hen House, but as Science Daily reports, people tend to gain weight on food stamps. Researchers suggest the average recipient of Nutritional Support programs was 1.15 BMI points higher than those not enrolled. Furthermore, the BMI increase was larger the longer people stayed on the program. With an average benefit of $129 for a family of four for an entire month (which seems like it wouldn’t be enough to satisfy), why are the recipients overweight?

Rather than picking up fresh produce once or twice a week, many families buy groceries once a month, possibly because they don't own cars and its more efficient to shop less often (produce can spoil fast). They also tend to buy things with longer shelf lives like heavily processed foods, because they believe this stretches their dollar. And because these programs don't allow you to purchase prepared items, it almost forces you to cook. Yet cooking runs the risk of ruining food—which costs to replace—so most don't dabble in the kitchen, and choose microwavable or -cooked goods.

By definition, being food secure means "household occupants do not live in hunger or fear of starvation" (Wiki). Although recipients are kept from starving, they aren't necessarily being nourished. So for my project's sake I believe the behavior of consuming or purchasing poorly nutrition foods (to alleviate a fear of starvation) is also a sign of food insecurity.

Access to healthy produce and foods is an increasing obstacle for low-income and inner-city families, causing poor health & eating habits. Dependency on and criteria of government nutritional programs limits the individual's notions and capacity to eat & feed better.

My mission is to coaxing Kansas City families back into the kitchen (and maybe garden), and by doing so I think we can remind people that cooking can benefit your sense of home and community, while also improving your expenses and your family's health.

Without really knowing a few things could indicate change in Kansas City. An increase in interest in the kitchen (interest in the recipe book), a increase in urban residents attending & supporting markets, or a greater need for gardening programs as noticed by the Kansas City Mentoring Initiative could signal change. Moreover, statistics of Kansas City families and children under the assistance of SNAP and their health would ideally improve.

My goal is relieve the growl in the pit of Kansas City's stomach, by removing the hidden emotional and social stresses of the bare or over-processed pantry of food insecurity. Through movement (community/private gardens) and awareness/education, our inner-city could change the way it eats and thinks.