Economic crisis: What’s the food gap in your area? you have a food gap in your area?

If you’re a regular OurValues reader, then you may recall the article last year with the photo of gigantic carrots. Or you might remember the 2-question quiz on hunger in America. I’ll tell you more about the creative program with the giant carrots in a moment.

But, first, here’s the context: All this week, we’re talking about increasing poverty in America. Increasing food insecurity comes with increasing poverty. In plain language: More Americans are going hungry, now. We’re talking about huge numbers of men, women and children who sometimes don’t have enough food to eat—right here in the United States.

Feeding America, a national organization of food banks, provides a detailed map of food insecurity at local, state, and national levels. Click on the image, at right, and you’ll jump to the Feeding America website where you can check out the food security rate anywhere in America. I would say the tool is “cool” except for the serious problem it illuminates. You’ll also find a concise definition of “food insecurity” on that website, just below the map.

The food gap in Washtenaw County, where I live in Michigan, is 13.8%. This translates to 47,890 individuals. And this is a relatively affluent area. Fortunately, there are companies like Zingerman’s Community of Businesses that have take steps to alleviate the problem. One of their businesses in Food Gatherers, a nonprofit food rescue, food bank, and food distribution organization. It’s the program with the big carrots out front.

In 2010-11, Food Gatherers distributed 5.25 million pounds of food, enough for 12,000 meals a day. Due to their efforts, 30% of the food was fresh produce. Food Gatherers helped to serve 100,000 healthy meals. Fifteen students graduated from Food Gatherers’ job-training program at their Community Kitchen. They raised more than $370,000 through their signature fundraising events. And a whole lot more.

While Washington debates cuts to all sorts of social support programs, some Americans are taking matters into their own hands.

Is there a food gap in your community?

Are you surprised to find hungry people in your area?

What is being done about it?

Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.

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