Several weeks ago, the Bucks County Opportunity Council, the anti-poverty organization in Bucks County and the Hunger Nutrition Coalition sponsored a “Morning Conversation” entitled, “White Bread, it’s What’s for Dinner.” “Morning Conversations” are a means for community members who have participated in Bridges training to continue the conversations about poverty, keeping them engaged and continuing our collective learning and relationship building. Over 30 volunteers and advocates from our Food Pantry Network attended this “Morning Conversation” about food insecurity.
The food insecurity rate in Bucks County is 9.2%, equating to 57,320 individuals that are food insecure and are likely ineligible for federal food assistance programs and thus dependent upon charitable food programs. (Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap)
Food insecurity as defined by the USDA is a “…lack of access to nutritious food that can sustain an active, healthy life for all household members.” Food insecurity often results in families needing to make “tradeoffs” between paying an important basic need and purchasing food. A 2014 state report for Pennsylvania indicates that 55% of client households have chosen between paying for food and paying their rent or mortgage at least once in the past 12 months. (Feeding America: Hunger in America 2014, State Report for Pennsylvania)
Food insecurity and the “tradeoffs” associated with it are all about survival. The three driving forces in poverty are survival, relationships and entertainment. Decision making in poverty is often related to these three driving forces.
As we examined the mental model of poverty, we emphasized that relationships play a primary role. People are important ~ people help us get by and get ahead. Key discussion points in “White Bread, it’s What’s for Dinner” included:
Food, required to survive and sustain life, and relationships seem to go hand in hand. The meal table is often the place where conversation begins and relationships are fostered. Eating and conversing are intimate, personal opportunities where trust and learning are the fruits of our efforts.
“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” (Dr. James Comer)
How does the act of giving food, of providing another with a means to survive impact your work as a food pantry volunteer? Does it shift your thinking, change your approach?
Food is a conduit to relationship building, which in turn opens the door to the possibility of change. The conduit is unique and provides an opportunity for pantry volunteers to be the “first responders” in building bridges of hope and possibility!
I look forward to sitting with you at the table!
Tammy B. Schoonover, ACSW, LSW
Director of Community Services
Bucks County Opportunity Council