Give a Man a Fish

…and he’ll have food for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.

This famous proverb is something that we grow up hearing from a very young age, but how can this concept be applied to the actual issue it is addressing? Hunger, Food insecurity.

So often, the main method of addressing hunger in a community is setting up a soup kitchen or a food bank. While I realize these are the most valuable of resources to a community, and can literally be a lifesaver to families in every community in our country, without an education component, these programs are simply “giving a man a fish.” If one truly wants to solve the problem of food insecurity in their community, t is important to look at where food insecurity is beginning.

Perhaps a community has an above average high school drop-out rate? Maybe the community is located in a rural area where the closest convenience store is 30 miles away, and an actual grocery store is an hour away? There are countless reasons that can lead a community to have an alarmingly high number of food insecure individuals, but if instead of looking at the root of the problem, the problem is simply masked, then progress will never be made in helping these individuals become more independently food secure.

The concept of Community Food Security may be new to some, but it is a systems approach to tackling a problem.

Let’s say our goal in the community is to increase overall fruit and vegetable intake in the children of our community. There could be many approaches to dealing with this:

  • Extra vegetables could be placed on the students’ lunch trays during school lunch.
  • All day cares and preschool could be required to provide at least one piece of whole fruit and one raw vegetables to their children every day.
  • Parents could receive a government subsidized coupon to make purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables less of a financial burden.
  • It could be required that all all grocery stores place their fresh produce at the front of the store, and “junk food” at the back of the store.

The options go on and on, and while all of these might have a small impact on increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, none of them are addressing the real problem.

If an individual doesn’t have exposure to something or doesn’t know what something is, they probably are going to want to eat.

For example, would you eat roasted grasshopper skewers?

There’s a good chance that the answer to this question is no-simply because it is not something you commonly associate with being “food.” However, in some parts of the world this is considered a delicacy.

So now, take a few minutes to watch this video excerpt from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

Scary to think that these children can’t identify basic vegetables, isn’t it? So maybe, rather than forcing vegetables on children to increase food consumption, we need to start at the beginning. Educate the children that vegetables are food, and teach them what they look and taste like when eaten fresh. Help the kids start basic gardens to get them excited about growing their own food. Teach the children how to prepare basic, healthy and fresh foods that they enjoy.

And then, maybe the kids will start eating more vegetables, because they will start to view a tomato as food, rather than something like a Roasted Grasshopper Kabob.