February 06, 2019
by Reneeta Mack
Food as an important factor in uniting and rehabilitating communities
Amidst the worry and uncertainty of food security in January, one thing was certain: we were reminded of how food brings people together. From California to Texas and everywhere in between, many different communities were reviving the idea of how food has the power to bring people together from all walks of life, different political backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, and other identities that would otherwise separate them.
This past January, during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, the future of food assistance programs such as SNAP, school lunches, and the WIC food and nutrition service was uncertain, and still is. However, it was also during this time that different communities of people took it upon themselves to feed those affected by the lack of food security during the partial government shutdown.
- Humanitarian-chef José Andrés offered free meals at all of his D.C. restaurants to feed furloughed federal employees who had no source of income during the government shutdown.
- Andrés explains his motivation for this action: "I have friends of both parties, and when we are around the table, somehow, everybody knows where to find common ground. And we respect each other, and that’s the way it should be—in America or anywhere around the world. If anybody’s hungry, we will be there."
- In San Antonio, a local Sikh temple also fed furloughed federal workers over the course of three days. Balwinder Dhillon, President of the Sikh Center of San Antonio, explains the temple’s motivations for this action:
- “We don’t worry about one community. We all belong to one race, which is the human race. We think we are all brothers and sisters and we need to support each other no matter who we are.”
We were also reminded that food brings people together during times of rehabilitation and recovery as well.
- Flint, Michigan, a town that is currently experiencing one of the nation's worst public health crises, is re-imagining its food system, as multiple healthy food initiatives encourage the city's recovery. Flint Farmers' Market is thriving, as 45 year-round vendors and 30 seasonal ones come together to provide access to nutrition to more than half a million people throughout the year.
- Other healthy food initiatives include: the Nutrition Prescription Program, Flint Kids Cook, Double Up Food Bucks, and Flint Fresh.
- In North Royalton, Ohio, residents of Woodrow Project are conquering addiction through farming as they maintain sobriety by planting seeds. Jacque Jones, one of eight residents who live at Woodrow Project, explains the importance of growing food during her rehabilitation:
- "Agriculture has been my life, all my life. I'm a farmer's daughter. So it's a gift, for me, to be given an opportunity to teach and live here and be able to have my chickens and be able to help women in recovery."
Overall, January showed how, especially in times of crisis, uncertainty and recovery, food is an important factor in building, uniting, and rehabilitating communities.
If you're interested in reading more on the subject, here are a few different articles:
- Food & Wine: José Andrés Plans to Open Kitchens Around the U.S. to Feed Furloughed Workers
- Upworthy: Sikh Americans are giving free food to thousands of workers affected by the government shutdown
- Civil Eats: Food is Helping Flint Recover and Re-imagine Itself
- Cleveland.com: Planting seeds to conquer addiction: Woodrow Project residents maintain sobriety through farming
- Civil Eats: A Farm and Restaurant Program that Helps Foster Kids Succeed
- CNN: Millions could lose food assistance, including school lunches, if shutdown drags on