Jan 11 2016 As U.S. government struggles to combat food insecurity, a new report calls for involvement of all sectors
In 2014, 5.6 percent of households in America experienced hunger, up from 4.1 percent in 2007 and 5.4 percent in 2010. With this percentage showing no signs of decreasing, Congress created the bipartisan National Commission on Hunger to provide it with insights and policy recommendations that can help the U.S. government address hunger and food insecurity through more effective use of existing programs and funds. The good news? “Hunger in America is solvable,” says the Commission in its new report “Freedom from Hunger: An Achievable Goal for the United States of America.” But with the complex causes of food insecurity and limited public resources devoted to addressing it, the Commission members agree that the solution will require strong commitment and coordination from across the government, business, and non-profit sectors.
After congressional leaders from both parties appointed an equal number of members, the Commission began its work, which involved holding monthly meetings, discussing issues regularly with the USDA, hearing testimony from 80 experts from government, industry, universities, and non-profits, and traveling to eight U.S. cities to see successful programs in action and hear from citizens affected by hunger.
“Just as hunger cannot be solved by food alone, national efforts to alleviate hunger cannot be carried out by the USDA alone.”
After working to better understand this issue, the Commission created the report, which includes 20 recommendations in six areas, two of which contain clear cross-sector components. First, the Commission calls for Congress to incentivize and expand corporate, non-profit, and public partnerships to address hunger. “Many times, government programs cannot reach all eligible people in need, and sometimes the added efforts of our community organizations, private philanthropy, and corporations can not only help reach the most vulnerable, but also provide strategic solutions to improve government programs,” the report explains. The report goes on to provide clear action items for government to achieve this goal, for example, advising that the USDA should provide incentives for creating certain public-private partnerships, such as those that incentivize farmers to contribute food to food banks and efforts that improve the quality of emergency food and reduce food waste.
“Partnerships between public and private entities have the potential to address hunger in ways that go beyond the limitations of government entities, by taking advantage of the ingenuity and creativity of private enterprise.”
The second area that involves a cross-sector component is the recommendation to create a White House Leadership Council to End Hunger that includes participation by both government and nongovernment stakeholders. “Just as hunger cannot be solved by food alone, national efforts to alleviate hunger cannot be carried out by the USDA alone,” the report illuminates. “To improve the overall health and wellbeing of people in the United States, the White House should mount a thoughtful, coordinated, and focused effort to address hunger and its root causes.” By encouraging the White House to Establish a Governance Structure, in this case a Leadership Council with stakeholders from across sectors, the Commission is helping ensure that its recommendations be carried out in a “thoughtful, coordinated, and focused” way.
The report not only provides recommendations for cross-sector solutions to hunger in the United States, but also highlights successful partnerships from across the country. The multi-sector partnerships fall into five categories, including SNAP partnerships, child nutrition partnerships, food distribution partnerships, healthy food access partnerships, and research and education partnerships. “Partnerships between public and private entities have the potential to address hunger in ways that go beyond the limitations of government entities, by taking advantage of the ingenuity and creativity of private enterprise.” For one example of an innovative public-private partnership tackling hunger in California, see our blog post on the Feeding Silicon Valley initiative.