41 million Americans struggle with hunger. This includes many people the public would not expect, including 1.5 million veteran and active service members. Many thousands of military families can't afford their groceries and one in four vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with hunger.
I distinctly remember hearing about a soldier returning from overseas struggling to pay rent. The soldier began selling his plasma in between tours to help cover the costs of living. The absurdity that men and women who fight for our country are returning to the United States and unable to live healthy lives is unbelievable to me. Soldiers are struggling to afford Butterball turkeys for their holiday get togethers. We have service members visiting local food pantries in order to put food on the table.
This is the unglamorous reality that is 2017.
“People don’t understand this,” said Top Chef turned food activist, Tom Colicchio, as he launches into an explanation of the goals set in place for Food Policy Action’s campaign aptly named, “A Place at The Table” born from the 2012 documentary by the same name. Food Policy Action is the c4 and c3 organization Colicchio co-founded a few years ago with the desire to push food policy agenda and improve public health, through raising community involvement and awareness. Colicchio’s take no bull crap personality has propelled Food Policy Action to new heights in the past seven years since its inception.
“To end hunger, we can’t rely on charity. We need our government to step up and make it a priority. Our government isn’t going to take the lead on this. It’s a big issue, it’s a solvable issue,” said Colicchio.
Programs in place to help fight hunger include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP for short. SNAP is constantly under the threat of budget cutting, such as in 2014 when the proposed Farm Bill cut SNAP funding by $40 billion. The final takeaway ending up being a $8 billion cut instead of the $40 billion. The 2018 Farm Bill threatens radical cuts.
“Additionally, enlisted men and women should not have to worry about affording healthy food for their families. Every member of our armed forces and every working American should be paid a wage sufficient to feed themselves and their families. We should also continue to look for more ways to support military families — like helping military spouses find good jobs — because well-paying jobs are the best anti-hunger measure of all,” Said Colicchio. “And in the longer term, we need to fix our broken food system. We need our leaders in Washington to ensure healthy food access for everyone. We want good food to be less expensive so we can fuel the potential of every citizen. This means eliminating the outdated and conflicting policies that contribute to unequal access to healthy, affordable food.”
That’s where Food Policy Action comes into play. Their mission statement, taken from the website, foodpolicyaction.org, states “Our mission is to highlight the importance of food policy and to promote policies that support healthy diets, reduce hunger at home and abroad, improve food access and affordability, uphold the rights and dignity of food and farm workers, increase transparency, improve public health, reduce the risk of food-borne illness, support local and regional food systems, protect and maintain sustainable fisheries, treat farm animals humanely and reduce the environmental impact of farming and food production. Food Policy Action promotes positive policies through education and publication of the National Food Policy Scorecard.”
How is it that we, Americans, can no longer afford to be healthy? We’ve begun living in a world of pre-packaged consumerism, unable to afford local and healthy food options. When we’re hungry, we’re hungry. A dollar will get you a lot further at McDonalds than it will in the produce aisle at the local co-op or grocery store. Programs like SNAP, WICK and school lunch are on the front lines that keep Americans from going hungry and are at risk of losing funding. Everything we eat is touched by policy. The very people who fight for our freedom are the ones who are hurting at home.
According to Colicchio, 1 out of 4 men and women who sign up to join the military are unable to serve due to their health. “25% who show up to join military- are unfit to fight, (due to their diets), You’d have more military members who wouldn’t have to sign up for tour after tout- they’d get more downtime. Food plays a vital role in the big issues today,” Said Colicchio. A 2014 article by TIME, started that 71% of the 2014’s youth population would fail to qualify for military service. It’s an odd balance to have obesity linked to hunger, and yet that’s exactly where the United States has positioned itself through years of low-cost junk food and high-cost local and healthy food options.
“Use your voice. Let congress know that this is a priority,” Said Colicchio.
To make a call to act:
Go to foodisfuel.org and where we make it easy to call your member of Congress in one quick step. Once you’ve made your call to act, share it on social media using #CalltoAct and #FoodisFuel, and tag @FoodisFuel so we can share your post. If you go to food is fuel.org. “We have scripts and had writers produce the scripts for us. You go to the site and see the script and fill in your name and hit button and you get a call back that will put you into a phone call directly into member of congress. It lets them know that ending hunger is a priority,” Said Colicchio.
Are you hungry or want to learn more about SNAP?
Resources for military families and veterans struggling with hunger: