Adlai Stevenson once said, “A hungry man is not a free man.”

As a self-proclaimed Victory Grower, I am not only concerned about growing things in my garden, but about the dynamics of the larger food system(s) in which I participate. I am particularly concerned about hunger, which is one of the most pressing moral issues of our time and one of the most vital national security challenges we face.

Credit: U.S. Postal Service

Hunger Statistics

Hunger in America is complex. It reflects many social and policy issues, including stagnant wages, a lack of affordable housing and inadequate/ineffective public policies. Ironically, many of those who help produce, prepare, serve and sell us food are at risk for hunger.

Feeding America, a network of more than 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs across the United States, reports these hunger statistics:

  • About 41.2 million Americans live in food insecure households.
  • This figure includes nearly 13 million children.
  • Nearly 12 percent of households are food insecure.
  • In 2015 8% of senior citizens (over age 60) were thought to be food insecure.

Learn more about hunger in America by visiting the USDA Economic Research Service’s food security page.

What’s the California outlook? Despite producing nearly half of the nation’s fruits and vegetables, 1 in 8 Californians faces food insecurity. To learn more about hunger in California – and to find a food bank or volunteer opportunity near you – visit the California Association of Food Banks.

Hunger Among College Students

More attention is being paid to the hunger crisis among our nation’s college students, with research driving policy and practice not only around the issue of hunger, but around the larger challenge of basic needs. (For more information, read this University of California report).

If you’re looking for a 7-minute overview of the research, check out this post: Who’s Hungry? Making Sense of Campus Food Insecurity Estimates. It was written by a group of researchers from institutions around the nation. They summarize some of the key findings and offer other insights, including the dilemmas faced by researchers vis-a-vis methodology. They also link to key studies so that you can delve more deeply into this complex topic. It’s a piece that I highly recommend.

They write:

“We have each reported a range of results in our studies, and so have our colleagues. The preponderance of existing evidence from studies of college students justifies the estimate of 50% food insecurity among undergraduates. Nearly half of all undergraduates are enrolled in community colleges, and estimates suggest that more than half of them deal with food insecurity. We can reasonably anticipate, given their similar characteristics, that students at for-profit colleges do as well. Moreover, estimates at public four-year universities — including some of the largest in the nation — also report food insecurity rates upwards of 40%, with some exceptions. Of course estimates are lower at flagships and private institutions, but it is also the case that those schools have been far more reticent to measure food insecurity on campus.”

To stay abreast of the issue of basic needs (including food insecurity and housing) among college students, l follow the work of several researchers, including Sara Goldrick-Rab (Temple University); Suzanna Martinez (University of California ANR Nutrition Policy Institute); Lorrene Ritchie (University of California ANR Nutrition Policy Institute); and Ruben Canedo (UC Berkeley).

Take Action This Weekend

You can help #StampOutHunger this weekend by participating in the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC AFL-CIO) annual food drive, a volunteer activity coordinated by employees of the U.S. Postal SOHService. This campaign represents a collaboration between NALC, rural letter carriers, other U.S. Postal service volunteers, non-profit organizations and community members. This year, the drive is being held in more than 10,000 towns and cities across America.

Last year letter carriers collected more than 75 million pounds of food for food banks, pantries and shelters across the nation and in Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands. Since the campaign started 26 years ago, approximately 1.6 billion pounds of food have been collected and donated.

It’s easy to participate: simply leave food items by your mail box for your letter carrier to collect. (Your letter carrier may have even left a brown paper bag at your house in recent days). Before you donate, please be sure to review the FAQs. Pet food is welcome, but there are restrictions, for example, on donations of baby food, which can only be donated by the case or pallet. If you forget to leave food out Saturday, simply leave it out on Monday.

Learn more by visiting NALC. You can also follow the drive on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Be sure to use the hashtag #StampOutHunger on social media and share your pictures and stories.

Here’s a video PSA:

Have a great week…!



No joke – The reality of the starving student and what UC is doing to help