How Hoosiers Can Help Fight Food Insecurity
According to Feeding America, one in every eight Americans suffer from food insecurity. When looking at the state of Indiana, that margin narrows to one in seven Hoosiers, or one in every six children. These numbers represent 42 million Americans (one million Hoosiers) that lack consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. As Indiana’s population continues to grow, it’s crucial that Hoosiers address the challenges of food insecurity that can lead to malnutrition and underdevelopment.
Despite being one of the country’s leaders in agricultural productivity, Indiana’s statewide average food insecurity rate is roughly 14 percent, which mirrors national numbers. It’s up to us to make a change. By taking smalls steps like introducing new technology and defying science and harvesting as we know it, food insecurity could become obsolete.
Embracing New Technology
The first step in combating food insecurity is to embrace new technology. Hoosiers must be willing to accept different ways of buying or growing food if they want to work toward a solution.
While there are several different versions of grow-at-home systems out there, there are some affordable grow-at-home systems that truly utilize the backend of the supply chain, which is sustainable harvesting. Since a plant loses a significant amount of its nutritional value the moment its harvested, it’s vital to use a system that utilizes methods that continue to let the plant grow, providing a continuous source of food.
These types of systems support sustainable agricultural food production by using less water, energy and waste. This new technology is similar to older hydroponic systems, which allows individuals to grow crops year-round in a controlled indoor setting but at a fraction of the cost and has no moving parts.
Micro-gardens and community-supported agriculture (CSA) initiatives can also make an impact on solving food insecurity within our lifetime. This goal can become a reality if Hoosiers actively work on supporting other organizations with the same mission, adopting innovative technology and connecting with like-minded experts.
Reducing Food Waste
ReFed reports that Americans spend about $218 billion per year growing, processing, transporting and disposing of food that never gets eaten. This represents roughly 52 million tons of food sent to the landfill annually, plus another 10 million tons of wasted food that are discarded or left unharvested on farms.
With such startling numbers on food waste, it’s time for Hoosiers to take matters into their own hands. Taking small steps like these can lead to lasting changes:
- Map out meals: Plan what meals you will eat for the week before you go to the grocery and only buy the items needed for those meals.
- Understand food product dating: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, manufacturers provide dating to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of best quality. Foods are still safe for consumption after these expiration dates pass, but double check odor, flavor or texture to make sure it hasn’t spoiled. Think twice before you toss away “expired” food.
- Eat what you already have: Before you head out to the store, see what you can use up before you end up buying more.
- Save and actually eat leftovers: Ask the waiter to box your leftovers and take the rest for lunch the next day.
- Store food in the right places: Many consumers are unaware of what fruits and vegetables want to be at room temperature versus in the refrigerator.
- Avoid clutter in your pantry, fridge and freezer: Not being able to quickly tell what’s available makes it more likely for food to be wasted.
Once Hoosiers become more aware of their wasteful habits, they can work toward becoming more mindful and cognizant when it comes to food waste.
Creating new habits amongst children
Education is a vital step in creating a change. In order to invoke change and combat food insecurity, it’s critical to educate younger generations. A recent study from Michigan State University found that gardening with children can help improve their developmental skills and bring awareness to where their food comes from. Introducing harvesting, sustainability and food insecurity issues to children will allow them to become more educated, challenged and inspired to make critical changes in our world.
By creating and sharing simplistic changes in the way students think of food, children can become involved in the conversation about food insecurity. By implementing harvesting and agricultural information into schools and at home, younger generations will become more aware of the vitality and importance of fresh food.
Ultimately, the goal is to educate current and future consumers about the importance of addressing and reducing food insecurity in our communities. By implementing new technology and innovative solutions, reducing food waste and educating younger generations, we can help end food insecurity in our lifetime.
Jonathan Partlow is the founder and chief executive officer of Aggressively Organic.