Food Summit

Food Summit

For many of us it may be difficult to imagine the inability to purchase nutritionally nourishing foods for ourselves and our families. Even harder to imagine is the pain and the shame of not having enough money to buy basic food.

One doesn’t have to be poor to be food insecure and not all poor people are insecure. It takes unexpectedly losing a job, or having bills mount up, or being isolated and not having transportation to get to a grocery store to start a family down the path to food insecurity. We learned at the March 30 food summit that the shame one feels about not having enough food over a prolonged period of time has the same effect as a trauma.

Mrs. Dorothy McAuliffe , Virginia’s First Lady, agreed to provide the keynote address for our Food Summit. She focuses her work on childhood nutrition and food security. She told those in attendance that food is as critical to a student’s ability to learn as are textbooks, a desk, and a computer. She said that long ago we decided that textbooks were a universal right and that she truly believes we should look at food the same way. “We can’t expect children to be hungry for knowledge if they are just plain hungry.”

Over 15% of Eastern Shore residents are considered food insecure, including 21% of children. Across the Shore 69% of students participate in the free and/or reduced lunch program. Nearly 20% of adults and 31% of children live in poverty.

Summit attendees received a package of food insecurity facts that included causes and conditions, local statistics, local assistance, and improvement ideas. The fact sheets are now available on the Eastern Shore Healthy Communities website and include important information to help connect individuals who are food insecure with resources available to them. Ironically, not all people who are food insecure take advantage of available government programs.

Wrapping up the conference Eastern Shore Healthy Communities Executive Director, Patti Kiger, presented a resolution the organization hopes to take to both Accomack and Northampton Counties Boards of Supervisors and School Boards. The resolution, which may be co‐signed by co‐Summit hosts Smart Beginnings Eastern Shore and the Food Bank, resolves that these bodies call upon all employees and citizens to learn about and act upon issues regarding hunger and food insecurity, such as food accessibility, transportation, affordability, and available assistance. It resolves that Eastern Shore Healthy Communities will convene a work group to study, monitor, and act on strategies for policies, systems and environmental change to improve food security on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and calls on all Supervisors and School Board members to consider food insecurity as a major barrier to the health and welfare of all Eastern Shore residents, partner with Eastern Shore Healthy Communities to advocate for long‐term sustainable policy solutions to make food more affordable and accessible in underserved communities.

Download a printable version of this story

Click here to view the 2016 Food Summit Agenda