Our neighborhood is filled with history and culture, but there is one problem: hunger. Because hunger affects 1 in 4 people in Philadelphia alone, Dr. Marjorie Allen, a professor at La Salle University, created a project that aims to raise awareness and ultimately end hunger.
Exploring Nutrition, Allen’s project, was created as a way to show the neighborhood that the university cared about hunger. Allen wanted to create a solution for food insecurity through service learning, academic partnerships, and participation from students and faculty. Her mission is “to have a positive impact on the neighborhood’s health and nutritional well-being by pooling collective resources and expertise through a partnership with local businesses, community organizations, and religious institutions”.
Philadelphia is the eighth city in America that does not have enough food. In Philadelphia, 49 percent of people do not have shelter, 60 percent of people are unemployed, and 20 percent of food assistance is unmet. Even though 460,000 people receive food stamps, 150,000 eligible people in Philadelphia do not receive benefits. Food insecurity is directly correlated with low incomes. Because the average income in our neighborhood is lower than most incomes, nutrition is diminished.
Another organization at La Salle that aims to raise awareness is Pheed Philadelphia. Established in 2011, Pheed Philadelphia is an on campus student organization that is devoted to raising hunger awareness. There are a total of 10 coordinators that visit various soup kitchens, such as St. Francis Inn, Face-to-Face, Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, and Blessed Sarnelli House, four times a week. Pheed Philadelphia chooses to raise awareness for hunger because 870 million people worldwide suffer from hunger.
The main reason for hunger is due to a lack of power, money, and resources. Low incomes make it difficult for individuals and families to eat nutritious foods. According to the Community Health Data Base, 59 percent of adults receive 0-2 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Lack of nutritious food is also directly related to obesity. About 50 percent of adults eat fast food once or more per week, arguably because of income. Fast food is convenient because it is so cheap, but it affects health and weight. In our neighborhood, 35 percent of adults are obese and 24 percent of children are obese. About 44 percent of adults do not exercise three of more times a week, and 28 percent of children do not regularly exercise.
Prior to the Fresh Grocer, the neighborhood was a food desert. It was filled with corner stores and fast food places that lacked healthy and nutritional food options. Most corners still have small convenience stores that sell “fast food” with low nutrients. Because healthier options are often more expensive, residents must resort to eating frozen vegetables and canned fruits. This lack of access also causes hunger. With the help of the University, the Fresh Grocer was built in order to provide residents with access to healthier meal options. Each year, the University and the Fresh Grocer partner to provide communities in need with fresh produce through the Easter Food Drive. This food drive assists 11 faith-based institutions who struggle with hunger and food insecurity. This year, the Easter Food Drive donated over 4,000 pounds of fresh produce, including carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, oranges, collard greens, green beans, broccoli, and corn, to surrounding communities in need.
Above is a map of the 11 faith-based communities that were assisted during the Easter Food Drive. The Easter Food Drive successfully assisted 11 communities in need this year, but there is still a need for action. One attempt to end hunger is the Fighting Hunger Incentive Act. This act aims to solve one of the world’s biggest problems: food waste. An astounding 1.3 billion metric tons of food is wasted worldwide, causing food waste to be one of the biggest environmental and social problems yet.
Among the 1.3 billion tons, about 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted and thrown into landfills. That’s almost half. Half of the food that Americans handle is either rotten or thrown into a garbage can without thought. More than 20 pounds of food per person goes uneaten, and this is the equivalent of throwing away $165 billion per year. Not only is money being wasted, but people are also starving.
The Fighting Hunger Incentive Act aims to encourage supermarkets, restaurants, and farms to donate their excess food. This sounds appealing to hungry Americans, however the Obama Administration is threatening to veto it. A major reason for the threat is due to money loss. It is estimated that the tax code rewrite will reduce government revenue by $2.2 billion. This act will benefit food banks, but it will not benefit tax payers.
Hunger is a serious global issue that currently has no solution. With efforts such as the Exploring Nutrition Project, Pheed Philadelphia, the Easter Food Drive, and the Fighting Hunger Incentive Act, awareness can be increased and hunger can ultimately be ended. The Exploring Nutrition Project is dedicated to actively assisting residents because our neighborhood is severely affected by hunger and poverty. “I am convinced we can make a difference”, said Allen.
Above is the final group video that summarizes Pheed Philadelphia, the Exploring Nutrition Project, and the annual Easter Food Drive.