Voices of Hunger

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Abstract

When I was a child, my grandparents owned a small grocery store in Quinque, Virginia, a small town about twenty miles north of Charlottesville, the nearest city. They provided food, including milk, meat, fresh produce, canned goods, and candy for their very small community. More than this, they provided a sense of community, a place of civic engagement where people could gather and share news and ideas. When my grandparents retired, their store was converted into a convenience store with far more limited and almost exclusively processed food offerings, forcing residents to travel much further for food and eliminating altogether the communal connections found in the old Powell's Store. This is a change not unfamiliar to communities across the United States. The proliferation of food deserts, especially across America's rural landscapes and in its urban centers, has eroded many families' access to food. Market pressures privilege large food distributors and wealthy communities while economic instability compounds the food security crisis assailing the world's wealthiest economy, its third largest agricultural producer, and its leading agricultural exporter. Many Americans across the United States are hungry, finding it increasingly more difficult to reliably feed their families while public programs designed to fight food insecurity face budget cuts. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, food insecurity plagued a new demographic: the educated, the formerly middle class, the never-before-hungry. This shined a new light on the way that American culture treats people who are food insecure. What does this mean for our communities and our fellow citizens and how can the crisis of hunger in America be addressed? This edited collection looks at the problem of food insecurity in the United States from a variety of perspectives and examines efforts underway to put food on the tables of America's families. From national programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to community endeavors like Micah’s Backpack, these chapters analyze food security initiatives, their challenges, and their successes. It also introduces us to the hungry among us, allowing us to better understand the problem of food insecurity from the perspective of those who face it on an ongoing basis. These chapters remind us that food is not just essential for individual human life. It is also the lifeblood of our communities.