We all know the drill when the forecast calls for a blizzard.
No matter how unnecessary, we rush to the grocery store and stock up on bread, eggs, milk and whatever is left on the shelf.
This mindset of stockpiling; of hoarding, is one of scarcity and uncertainty that causes us to grab whatever we can while we can get it.
We see this all the time in the food-insecure communities we serve at NourishKC, formerly known as Episcopal Community Services.
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When we are food insecure, it is difficult to think beyond our need for food, exacerbating the cycle of poverty and hunger. We are unable to invest the mental energy required to develop and implement any sort of plan beyond this moment, today or tomorrow.
We’ve all been there. Think about a time you went to work without getting breakfast. It was hard to focus, to function, and affected your whole day. If this was every day of your week, imagine the longer-term impact on both your work and your mindset.
NourishKC’s programs are designed to help the guests who dine with us at Kansas City Community Kitchen (KCCK) or shop our food pantries to take what they need to learn, excel at work and feel empowered in their lives, knowing that we’ll be there for them tomorrow and the next day with resources to meet their needs.
We are taking a similar approach to address the same scarcity mindset set up by our emergency food system in which more than 200 organizations, pantries and soup kitchens often compete for critical but limited resources.
This landscape has prompted many of these organizations to place tremendous emphasis on protecting what they have, leaving them with fewer resources to engage in long-term planning, building collaborative partnerships, and addressing other needs of the communities they serve.
This mindset has resulted in a fragmented and inefficient system negatively impacting those experiencing food insecurity.
By taking anything to keep their shelves stocked, many pantries do not offer a good balance of nutritious foods. And their volunteers and staff are so focused on fundraising and securing food that they are lacking the time, energy and sometimes knowledge needed to help those they serve move beyond the barriers of poverty.
The emergency food system has long been disjointed, characterized by minimal communication and collaboration between providers to streamline efforts and increase efficiency.
NourishKC is changing the system through our Hunger Summits, which are regularly scheduled meetings among those dedicated to building a food secure region. These summits provide a platform for honest discussion at a systems level. We’re engaging our communities about food being donated only to be discarded; how providers can collaborate to shift food supplies in a timely manner to where they are needed or might be better received, and – most importantly – how well the emergency food system is responding to those in need.
As we continue our work, we need our entire community to engage in the critical issue that is food insecurity in Kansas City. Join us at a hunger summit in your community, volunteer at KCCK, and attend the American Public Square conversation on Nov 9. For more information follow NourishKC on Facebook or contact us at 816-561-8920.
Beau G. Heyen is president and CEO of NourishKC.
Food insecurity panel discussion
On Thursday at 5 p.m., American Public Square presents "Bad Choices. No Choices. Food Insecurity" at UMKC's Pierson Auditorium.A panel of local, regional and national experts will discuss food insecurity and what can be done to ensure reliable access to affordable, healthy food. For more information and to register for the program visit americanpublicsquare.org or call 816-235-5067.