Today I attended Philabundance’s Hunger Symposium. The harsh reality is that more people are struggling to get by and put food on their table. According to the literature from the Symposium, in 2010, 21 million people lived in working-poor families. This translates into nearly 9.6 percent of all American families living below 100 percent of poverty have at least one family member working. One of the most common misconceptions is the assumption that if someone is hungry, that means they do not have a job and are living on the streets. What most people don’t understand is that anyone can experience hunger. It is a silent epidemic that affects 49 million Americans. The Symposium provided a forum to look at the challenges related to food access. Philabundance brought in speakers like Mari Gallagher to better understand the obstacles. Here are some notes:

– When kids aren’t in school they stop accessing food programs making summer the most difficult for parents.

– The people being served by food programs need to be involved in the solution. Families who are poor are savvy on how to survive.

– Collaboration is key between the government and nonprofits.

– Why some programs are underutilized: lack of marketing, lack of access, bad previous experience, stigmas around program.

– The original assumptions behind food banks: surplus food would always be available; existing networks of food pantries are ideal distributors; hunger was manageable and could be solved with a robust economy. All of these assumptions have been proven wrong.

– New strategy worth testing: combine nonprofit food banking with a grocery store; maximize SNAP (food stamps) benefits and cash purchases; provide a dependable and reliable supply; provide food free of charge. This is all about promoting self-sufficiency through choice and maximizing food assistance benefits.