Hungry for Justice

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by Johnny Merolla


The United States is the richest country in the world, yet over 40 million people struggle to bring food to their families. How can this be?


The problem isn’t a lack of money or fertile land. The U.S. is one of the largest food exporters in the world. Yet in our tremendously wealthy state, nearly 1 in 8 people experience hunger. The problems are that the current structure for providing nutritious food to people is failing, and people who enter this world in poverty have few opportunities to break the cycle.


It’s time to change things and bring food justice to all.


The idea of food justice is often maligned as a leftist ideology that promotes handouts for “freeloaders” while the rest of the country works. But it couldn’t be more different. Food justice is an ideal that should span the political spectrum as a foundational shared American value; food justice is about people’s basic rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


In Seattle, the majority of food bank clients are single mothers, veterans, or senior citizens – many of whom are working – who cannot keep up with the radical rise in the cost of living in our booming city and state.


Many organizations are fighting to bring food to those who are less fortunate. But decades of worsening American hunger shows that just providing food is like bringing an extinguisher to a forest fire. To eradicate hunger in the long term, food organizations must become less about canned peas and macaroni and more about nutritious and culturally acceptable food paired with bold advocacy programs and holistic services.


This strategic shift from community food drives to food justice pioneers will be no easy move. Minerva works with two organizations that are proving it’s possible.


Northwest Harvest partners with 375 food banks to bring food to those experiencing hunger in Washington State, and they address the root causes of hunger through powerful advocacy moves. They recently held a focus group with hundreds of food bank clients and shared these unique insights with legislators and others who fight hunger through policy work. Northwest Harvest understands that championing food justice means supporting those experiencing poverty and discrimination through powerful advocacy and community-led movements.


At a neighborhood level, our friends at Ballard Food Bank promote food justice through their holistic approach. Their Community Hub offers services that help clients stay housed, gain access to food, and connect with mental and primary care health professionals. Their grocery-style food bank allows clients to shop for food with dignity and their Hub offers services for clients – particularly veterans and senior citizens – who live in hidden poverty, often in our city’s most affluent neighborhoods.


It’s possible to create equitable access to food for all. To get there, organizations must take a more food justice approach. This means addressing hunger now through food banks and combating hunger in the long term by breaking down the deep inequalities that keep too many Americans trapped in poverty.

About The Author

Minerva Strategies

Minerva Strategies

The Minerva team has decades of experience working with nonprofits, foundations, and values-driven companies. Minerva also partners with experts—trusted designers, web developers, global communications professionals, and others—who share our excitement for creating positive social change. Through these partnerships, we can build a team that is tailored to your needs. Learn more about who we are or what we do.