SeminarProject: Food Security According to the International FoodPolicy Research Institute, food security is the “condition in which all people,at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe andnutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for anactive and healthy life.
” Food security and food insecurity, however have manydefinitions. Feeding America says “food security includes at a minimum: (1) theready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and (2) an assuredability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (e.g., withoutresorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other copingstrategies),” and that food insecurity is “Limited or uncertain availability ofnutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability toacquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.” However, these terms aresubjective: “Like so much bureaucratic jargon, the phrase is clinical andopaque. Food insecurity may be more exactthanthe old term, hunger, but it doesn’t convey much about what it’s like not tohave enough to eat on a regular basis” (Anderson, L.V.
). Furthermore, foodsecurity, or insecurity, doesn’t begin to gauge or measure the astonishing increasein those who are hungry in the United States: “In 2006 the U.S. governmentreplaced ‘hunger’ with the term ‘food insecure’ to describe any householdwhere, sometime during the previous year, people didn’t have enough food toeat. By whatever name, the number of people going hungry has grown dramaticallyin the U.S., increasing to 48 million by 2012—a fivefold jump since the late1960s, including an increase of 57 percent since the late 1990s” (McMillan,Tracie). We often don’t connect hunger to insecurity, or even injustice.
Hungerseems otherworldly. We don’t realize that hunger, and insecurity, can be rightin front of us. “Chances are good that if you picture what hunger looks like,you don’t summon an image of someone like Christina Dreier: white, married,clothed, and housed, even a bit overweight. The image of hunger in America todaydiffers markedly from Depression-era images of the gaunt-faced unemployedscavenging for food on urban streets. ‘This is not your grandmother’s hunger,’says Janet Poppendieck, a sociologist at the City University of New York,” and”with this new image comes a new lexicon” (McMillan, Tracie).
Hunger and foodinsecurity is now the face of the white, slightly overweight, middle class andsuburban family, with children. There are roughly four components of foodsecurity espoused by the research concerning this issue: availability, access,utilization, and stability. Food security exists when there is a reliable andconsistent source of food; people have sufficient resources to purchase food;there is knowledge and basic sanitary conditions to choose, prepare, anddistribute food; and the ability to access and utilize that food remainssustained over time (Feed The Future). Food is, and should be, a universalbasic need. When food is not distributed properly, not easily accessed, notused correctly, and not readily available it becomes an insecurity, or ratheran injustice. Drawing on Rawls’ theory of justice, I argue that food securityis not necessarily the injustice, but rather that for lower-income families inthe US the insecurity they experience around food is the injustice concerningthe issues mentioned above.
According to the Washington StateDepartment of Health, in the years of 2011 to 2013, about 14% of Washingtonresidents were considered food insecure, and 6% were considered having “verylow food security” or food insecure with hunger (doh.wa.gov). This compares tothe 15% and 6% respectively, in the United States overall. The DOH also reportsthat “In state fiscal year 2014, about 600,000 people participated inWashington’s Basic Food Program each month. About 38 percent of those receivingBasic Food were children.
” Hunger and food insecurity is marked by health affects,especially for children. Children who experienced low food security often alsoexperience psychological problems, frequent colds, ear infections, anemia,asthma, headaches, impaired cognitive development and function, as well as pooracademic achievement (DOH). Children are not immune to hunger and foodinsecurity, in fact, they are often the most affected. The Washington DOH aswell as the Children’s HealthWatch’s research, and the work of the US FoodSecurity Scale indicate that food insecurity causes “tragic effects” that”geographically imprint on the bodies and minds of children” because of the”unnecessary condition” of hunger (Cook, John). Hunger is a health problem, asmentioned above, but it is also an educational one.
Hungry children can’t learnas fast or as well, they’re more likely to do poorly in school and have lowacademic achievement, and experience social and behavioral problems, unable to”adapt as effectively to environmental stresses” (Cook, John). The Northeast Youth Center, NEYC, anon-profit organization that provides educational and recreational programs forchildren ages 3-17, has made it their mission to provide at-risk youth in theSpokane Public School District 81 with low-cost opportunities to buildconfidence, life skills, etc. They serve a diverse population of students andtheir families through their before school, after school, preschool and summerprograms. Over 500 children are served each month, with 91% coming from singleparent homes. This 91% also subsequently qualifies for the free/reducedbreakfast and lunch programs. Many of the children who attend the before andafter school programs will only see dinner when they are fed it at the center,immediately following the end of the school day. Many will also not eat untilthey are fed breakfast at the center the next morning or at school as part ofthe free/reduced breakfast program.
Many of the families live in food deserts,which are defined as “limited access to supermarkets, supercenters, grocerystores, or other sources of healthy and affordable food” (USDA). Food desertsare usually determined by a few indicators that describe one’s access to food:”accessibility to sources of healthy food, as measured by distance to a store,individual-level resources that may affect accessibility, such as family incomeor vehicle availability, neighborhood-level indicators of resources, such asthe average income of the neighborhood and the availability of publictransportation” (USDA). “Tens of thousands of people in Houston and in otherparts of the U.S. live in a food desert: They’re more than half a mile from asupermarket and don’t own a car, because of poverty, illness, or age.
Publictransportation may not fill the gap. Small markets or fast-food restaurants maybe within walking distance, but not all accept vouchers. If they do, costs maybe higher and nutritious options fewer” (McMillan, Tracie). Due to the natureof its location and the people it serves, NEYC is the perfect case study forseeing and understanding the effects of food insecurity. In order to producesomething tangible, more than a discussion, I engaged some of the students atthe youth center in a thought experiment. I gathered a group of 10 students,ages 7 and 8, and asked them to draw what they ate for dinner the night before.
“Children’s drawings can be used as a means of representing and communicatingknowledge and perspectives” (Duncan, Pauline). Plus, kids are honest. Whileunpleasant sometimes, it’s what makes them great candidates to see thedisproportionate effects of hunger. If I were to survey middle-class adults, I’msure their answers would be much different. There’s shame and taboo associatedwith hunger. It indicates things like low socioeconomic status and poverty, whichadults rarely cop to. While many of the kids offered the typical answer of “Idon’t remember what I ate for dinner, so what do I draw?” I also got the answer”But I didn’t have dinner last night.
What else can I draw?” from 2 students.We hear these statistics, 1 in 5 children is hungry, 1 in 6 Americans is foodinsecure, but are these really true? If they are, then why do we have a childobesity problem? Basic Food help and other programs must be a failure if thesestatistics are true. But in a study of 10 students, 2 didn’t have dinner, andif 1 out of 5 children experiences hunger, then I managed to prove thisstatistic outright. At the youth center, in the heart of Hillyard, in North Spokane,in Washington state, in our neighborhood, 1 out of 5 children is experiencinghunger. Food security, insecurity, hunger, whatever, was no longer a fictionalthing. It was all too real.
While I originally intended the activity tohumanize the issue of hunger, I got something out of it more than Ianticipated. We need to look a this food and hunger crisis from the perspectiveof children. They’re brutally honest.
And they’re also shameless. Historically,hunger and subsequent insecurity has been seen as a shameful thing. Whilehungry Americans hide behind the middle-class façade and “the suburbs America’shungry don’t look the part either, driving cars, which are a necessity, not aluxury, cheap clothes and toys can be found at yard sales and thrift shops,making a middle-class appearance affordable, and consumer electronics can bebought on installment plans, so the hungry rarely lack phones or televisions,”it is no wonder we don’t see hunger. But nothing will get more honest or bemore revealing than the drawing of a child and their shameless attitude towardhunger.
If every American, or Washingtonian for that matter, could be as courageousas a child drawing, we’d see issues like food insecurity eradicated. In order to better understand howfood security becomes an insecurity, and subsequently an injustice, we canemploy Rawls’ theory of justice as fairness. When food is not distributedproperly, not easily accessed, not used correctly, and not readily available itbecomes an insecurity, and thus an injustice. Rawls’ theory of justice, wouldargue that for many low-income families, and especially children, in the UnitedStates and Eastern Washington, the insecurity experienced around food; itsaccessibility, utilization, and stability is the injustice. Basic access tofood is something that Rawls would characterize as fair equality ofopportunity, as a result of the difference principle.
We see this as a case forthe difference principle because it states that goods and benefits should beredistributed from one group, the well off, to the other, the worst off. If wedefine food as a basic need, it makes sense to redistribute this basic thing tobenefit the hungry, or those who are the worst off. Equality for Rawls onlyrequires that it be accessible insofar that everyone has the ability to pursuetheir own conception of the good, however, inequality is “okay” if it’s to thebenefit of all, especially the worst off. Rawls’ distributive justice advocatesfor a justice system in which goods are given out and apportioned fairly insociety.
Equality and freedom are therefore not mutually exclusive and allcitizens must have the same rights in order for justice to be truly fair and”just.” Rawls therefore comes up with this idea he calls “the veil ofignorance,” where rational human beings are put in the “original position,”meaning they are given basic information concerning society and who they are,removing race, class, gender, etc. from the equation. They are then supposed to”vote” based only on their morals, without any knowledge about themselves orsociety. Rawls concludes that any decisions made, or voted upon, were then onlybased in morality and should be rational, for human beings themselves arerational.
However, he doesn’t mean to say that anyone is the same, but ratherthat each person has a different conception of the good. Nozick andlibertarianism, however, would disagree with Rawls. He would assert thatdistribution is based on an entitlement theory that is also a historicalprinciple. We can tell if a distribution is “just” by looking at its history.If the transfer of holdings was legitimate then the distribution is just.
Ifthe transfer was not legitimate, then a consultation of the third principle, ifthe injustice was rectified, must be made. If it was rectified then it was ajust distribution and vice versa (Nozick, Robert). Nozick argues that alteringthe distribution of goods to produce free exchanges of goods violates thepurpose of just distribution and follows a patterned distribution theory.Patterned distribution seeks to produce certain and guaranteed end results.
ForNozick, distribution should have individual choice, and therefore Rawls’distributive justice, based on the difference principle, advocates for this”free exchange” of goods in order to produce a particular end goal. However,Rawls’ theory does offer a more just distribution is that everyone is equal,while Nozick’s distributions are only just in the fact that both parties found thetransfer of holdings legitimate, which doesn’t necessarily mean equal. Second Harvest of the Northwest isan organization operating in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho thatdistributes over 2.5 million pounds of food each month to over 220,000 people,for free. They’re active in over 26 counties and 250 neighborhood food banksand centers. Second Harvest participates in industry partnerships that allowsthem to acquire and distribute fresh produce to the community in need as wellas mobile markets or food banks that set up shop in the area that don’t haveaccess to other food centers.
Second Harvest operates on donations andvolunteer time, with almost 99% of its expenses going directly to helping thosewho are hungry in the community (Second Harvest). Second Harvest is not yourordinary food bank, it seeks to not only feed the hungry but to also educatethem, especially children, about nutritious food, cooking food, etc. TheKitchen Lab by Second Harvest offers field trips for children to participate inworkshops like produce tasting, cooking, and other activities that helpchildren learn how to cook easy and nutritious food that will increase theiroverall health (Second Harvest).
Adult cooking classes are also offered andopen to all. The Production Kitchen gets low-income families excited aboutproducing and distributing frozen meals as an “incentive” to participate in”scratch cooking” and recipes and ingredients for these frozen meals are”concurrently distributed to families and seniors at mobile food bank events tothey can prepare the meal at home” themselves (Second Harvest). Nutritionprograms like My Plate help peer-to-peer mentors teach nutrition guidelines,etc. Organizations like Second Harvest of the Inland Northwest not only seek toeradicate hunger but to also educate those who are food insecure. SecondHarvest is a reliable and consistent source of food, they give instructionconcerning basic sanitary conditions to choose, prepare, and distribute foodand they offer access to this food over time. Their approach to solving issueslike food insecurity and even poverty maintains a sense of dignity amongindividuals and allows for a sense of freedom.
Second Harvest’s approach tohunger and insecurity is different, which is what makes it great and easilytransferable to other forms of action. Putting a Band-Aid on the issue won’tfix it, but offering comprehensive education and support will. Foodsecurity must concern both availability and access, as well as utilization, andstability.
It exists when there is a reliable and consistent source of food,when people have sufficient resources to purchase food, when there is knowledgeand basic sanitary conditions to choose, prepare, and distribute such food, andthe ability to access and utilize that food remains sustainable over time. Foodis a universal basic need, but when food is not distributed properly, noteasily accessed, not used correctly, and not readily available it becomes aninsecurity, and even an injustice. Drawingon Rawls’ theory of justice, I argue that food security is not necessarily theinjustice, but rather that for lower-income families in the US the insecuritythey experience around food is the injustice concerning the issues mentionedabove.
A difference principle needs to be active, and all human beingsafforded food, even if the distribution is unequal, with the better off givingto the worst off. In 2014, over 600,000 Washington residents participated inthe Basic Food Program, with 38% being children. Hunger and food insecurity causeshealth defects like psychological problems, frequent colds, ear infections,anemia, asthma, headaches, impaired cognitive development and function, even pooracademic achievement, as well as social deficits. Children are disproportionatelyaffected by the hunger crisis and because of this hunger has a new face. TheNortheast Youth Center, located in Hillyard is an excellent example of adiverse group of Washington children who are considered food insecure, and whoprove the 1 in 5 statistic to be true. While children are the most affected,they are the reason change is being made. Children use drawing as a way ofcommunicating and offering a perspective, which makes drawing their meals agreat way of seeing how hunger manifests itself in their lives. Children are alsobrutally honest and shameless, approaching crises like hunger with curiosityand attentiveness.
And nothing is more compelling than a child drawing nothingbecause that’s what they had for dinner. The only way things get better is ifwe notice them. However, organizations like Second Harvest of EasternWashington and Northern Idaho is helping remedy the hunger crisis. Throughkitchen education, mobile food banks and comprehensive encouragement and care,the Inland Northwest is making improvements, and will continue. WorksCitedAnderson,L.
V. “Hunger’s Disproportionate Effect on Women.” Slate Magazine, XX Factor: What Women Really Think, 18 July2014.Cook,John, and Karen Jeng. “Child Food Insecurity: The Economic Impact on OurNation. “Feeding America,doi:nokidhungry.org.
“Documentation.”USDA ERS – Documentation, United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, Lastupdated 5 Dec. 2017.
Duncan,Pauline Agnieszka. “Drawing as a Method for Accessing Young Children’sPerspectives in Research.”Economic & Social Research Council, 18 June 2013.Feedthe Future (FTF).
“Feed The Future Guide.” Feedthefuture.gov, May 2010, p. 4., doi:https://feedthefuture.gov/sites/default/files/resource/files/FTF_Guide.pdf.
“FoodInsecurity and Hunger.” www.doh.wa.gov, Washington State Department of Health,Mar. 2016.”FoodSecurity.” Ifpri.
org, International Food Policy Research Institute. McMillan,Tracie, and Photographs by Kitra Cahana, Stephanie Sinclair, and Amy Toensing. “The New Face of Hunger.” NationalGeographic, 2014.Nozick,Robert. “Anarchy, State and Utopia.” Justice: A Reader, edited by Michael J.
Sandel, Oxford University Press,Inc., 2007, pp. 60-73. Rawls,John. “Rawls: Justice As Fairness.
” Justice: A Reader, edited by Michael J.Sandel, Oxford University Press,Inc., 2007, pp. 203–221.