At this time of year, it’s popular to think about sharing food and access to food. Our post-harvest holiday traditions reinforce thankfulness and community. Massachusetts has one of the largest gaps in the nation between the wealthiest and poorest households. The Greater Boston Food Bank says that one in 9 people in Eastern Mass do not know where their next meal will come from.
A recent article in the Boston Globe about inequality in Cambridge talks specifically about food prices. “Housing isn’t the only thing that’s gotten more expensive as Kendall Square’s influence spreads. Johnnie’s Foodmaster, the low-cost grocery store in nearby Inman Square, is now a Whole Foods. Hi-Fi Pizza and it’s $2 slices are gone, soon to be replaced by a Clover Food Lab serving $6 chickpea fritter sandwiches. The dollar store is closed, too.” Meanwhile, the community’s food pantry serves around 1200 people per month. While we continue to plan for wealthy consumers and residents who we think will be moving into these areas in the future, we neglect affordable housing and food for the residents who live in our neighborhoods now.
Agricultural policies are an important part of how we can reduce hunger in urban areas. Including community agriculture, like public gardens, and making sure that zoning in new and planned luxury commercial and residential areas includes allowances for local agriculture.
On a larger scale we need to be thinking about how we source and consume our food globally. Dan Nicke, associate director of the Iowa Waste Reduction Center, mentioned that “forty percent of all the food in this country never makes it to the table — at a cost of $165 billion to the U.S. economy.” According to the US Department of Agriculture one in seven Americans struggled with struggled with hunger in 2013.
There is a staggering gap in what is sourced, created and consumed. We have an obligation to bridge the gap between what is being eaten and what is being wasted.