AAWGT: Making a difference in our community!

June 12, 2019 Education Meeting

Craving a Solution to Hunger: A Path to Food Security by 2030

AAWGT’s second educational program in June drew one of the largest audiences ever, with 130 members and guests registered. In this land of plenty attendees were given a chilling overview of the number of people in the US who are not sure when and how they will get their next meal.

Karen Bassarab, Senior Program Officer at Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, and Christine Melendez Ashley, Deputy Director for Government Relations at Bread for the World, began by reviewing the root causes of chronic food insecurity. Governmental policies, food advertising and societal norms were identified as factors in poor nutrition practices, along with more individually- based barriers to good nutrition such as lack of nutrition knowledge and unhealthy lifestyles. Limited access to healthy food due to urban “food deserts” was also identified. The overall result is that compared to white Americans, Latino families are two and a half times more likely and African American and Indigenous families are up to three times more likely to be food insecure. It also was reported that regardless of race, 30% of female-headed households are food insecure.

While causes vary, food insecurity universally creates a vicious long-term cycle of decline among affected populations. Inadequate nutrition from conception to 24 months negatively affects a child’s ability to succeed throughout life.  This pattern continues through youth and adulthood, as an ongoing diet of non-nutritious, calorie-dense foods causes obesity and associated chronic diseases, ultimately leading to increased healthcare costs and decreasing the financial resources needed to purchase nutritious food.

In looking towards solutions, it was heartening to learn of recently formed county/school partnerships to combat food insecurity locally, as presented by Ann Heiser Buzzelli, RD, LDN, Community Education, Anne Arundel County Department of Health and Jodi Risse, RD., Supervisor, Food & Nutrition Services, Anne Arundel County Public Schools. After surveying the Brooklyn Park Community, Ann & Jodi encouraged a local farmer and other partners to set up the Brooklyn Park Farmers Market featuring foods with a rainbow of colors, enticing attendees to taste new foods. Jodi also applies the rainbow of colors approach to nutritious eating in school cafeterias, where students may serve themselves an unlimited number of fruits and vegetables.

The final speaker of the program was Michael Wierzbicki, a North County teacher who has pioneered a STEM education program for underserved students to combat food insecurity. Mike provides hands-on classes in growing nutritious food in urban gardens, farming tilapia, and tending honey-producing bee hives. Through these activities he teaches lessons in environmental science, nutrition, and general science, as well as principles of business. His students have started packaging their foods under the Cohort Brand, and several samples were displayed. At the completion of the program, Mike and his student assistants shared product tastings with the audience.

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