OUR OPINION: A Bitter Harvest of Food Insecurity in Philadelphia

Filed under: Featured News,Government,Latest News,Opinion |

SUMMER MELONS in W. Phila. Photo by Tony West

There is no better time of the year than the first week of August for people who love fresh produce. Peaches and nectarines are in fragrant abundance; blueberries are still blushing in their clamshells; tomatoes, cukes, peppers, corn – oh, that corn – and the rest of farmland’s summer cornucopia are on vivid display at farmers’ markets, roadside stands and supermarkets across the region.

Except in Philadelphia. Despite the presence of numerous supermarket chains and the Food Trust’s operating 78 farmers’ markets in the city, fully one-quarter of our citizens live in a perpetual state of food insecurity. That means that they are in constant danger of running out of food – and the money to pay for more of it – before the end of each month.

This alarming statistic is rising, making Philadelphia a shameful anomaly in the U.S. – while other metropolitan areas are seeing the numbers of food-insecure citizens go down, our city’s proportion of this part of the populace is double that of the rest of the state and the country.

So what are we doing about it? What can we – what can you – do to help children arrive at school thinking about the lesson plan instead of how hungry they are? To help adults focus on their work – or finding work – instead of where their next meal is coming from?

There are a number of organizations doing great work to alleviate this crisis, including Philabundance, FoodConnect and many other members of the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, and we recommend checking any and all of them out.

But more needs to be done going forward. There are countless land parcels out there that could be turned into community gardens through partnerships with the city and groups like Soil Generation and the Black Dirt Farm Collective. More chains could follow the trailblazing lead of Jeff Brown and open supermarkets in food deserts. And now that momentum is behind stop-and-go reform, why not allocate the fines collected from these bars masquerading as delis to help teach nutrition and provide resources to those in need?

We need to reap what we sow, not just for us, but for our neighbors and future generations.

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