Food insecurity is a problem, but it can be solved

Published 9:20 am Thursday, March 1, 2018

Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles touched on a big problem that needs more attention during his comments to Danville Rotary on Friday: food-insecurity.

“I have the honor of representing an industry that is blessed with an abundance of food. We are really good at growing crops and raising livestock. But yet, one in six Kentuckians and one in five Kentucky school children are considered food-insecure,” Quarles said. “We can do better than that. Seven hundred and forty-three thousand Kentuckians are considered to be food-insecure — 17 percent of our population.”

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Quarles had another shocking statistic to share:

“40 percent of all prepared foods are thrown in the trash can every single day,” he said. “If you were to add up all the food waste in America and put it all in one pile, it’ll fill up 730 Super Bowl-sized arenas. And that’s food that’s thrown in the trash can every year. We can do a better job.”

Quarles wants Kentucky to improve efficiency and communication between food banks and other organizations that help provide food to people who are considered food-insecure (people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from).

Food insecurity isn’t an easy problem to solve, as proven by the fact so many still deal with it today. But it is a solvable problem: It’s not like we don’t have enough food to feed everyone, we just aren’t good enough at getting the food we already have to the people who need it.

We agree with Quarles that Kentucky can do a better job in this area. We think ending food insecurity will involve two equally important steps:

• We need to raise awareness about the problem and support for fixing it.

• We need to analyze where our wasted food goes and come up with alternative paths that would allow the food to flow to those who need it instead of trash cans.

Danville has a good example of progressive thinking on this front in Grace Café, a pay-what-you-can restaurant that’s goal is to end food insecurity.

Grace Café has come up with an alternative path for getting food to the food-insecure. It allows people who might otherwise not eat to get a good meal in a restaurant setting, reducing the problem of shame or embarrassment about one’s income level.

Grace Café’s unique solution is working because of community awareness and support — if there weren’t well-off people paying full price and making donations, the solution would just be an idea on the shelf.

Quarles said Friday he is working with people from IBM Watson to develop better logistics for getting food distributed to organizations and then on to people who are food-insecure, so that efficiency in the system can be improved. That sounds like another great solution; it has potential to go far as long as the awareness and support are there to keep it going.

We’ll need more solutions than these, and more awareness and support to turn the solutions into realities. But solving food insecurity is definitely achievable.