By Justin McKinney, Staff Writer
On Wednesday, February 1, UMass Dartmouth played host to the South Coast Food Security Forum in which professionals from around the state came together in order to discuss strategies on how to fight hunger in the state of Massachusetts.
The forum was spearheaded by Ellen Parker, Executive Director of Project Bread, Massachusetts’ largest organization committed to fighting hunger and also providing healthy food options for those in need.
Alongside their role of fighting hunger and advocating for healthy options, Project Bread also hosts Boston’s annual Walk For Hunger.
The Walk is Boston’s oldest pledge walk that works to raise millions of dollars for hungry children in Massachusetts.
What made the forum and particularly Parker’s strategies for fighting hunger so intriguing and awe-inspiring was the fact they were not only advocating to feed the hungry, but to feed the hungry with food that is nutritious.
Parker began her discussion with a point that she has taken from years of working as an advocate for those in need.
“I have talked to 90 year old grandmothers in Mattapan and Mothers in Wellesley, they all say the same thing,” said Parker. “They want their kids to eat healthy.”
She went on to discuss how while many of those in need of food do get help from food pantries across the state as well as government funded programs, they do not necessarily get food that is healthy.
Parker pressed the means as to how much more successful many young people would be if they were not only starting the day with breakfast, but a healthy breakfast.
Parker continued in discussing how this goal of healthy food for all might seem difficult, but is very much in reach if communities come together to help one another.
Parker then laid out not only what community food security is, but also what it looks like.
“Community food security is respect for workers, for animals, and people,” said Parker. “It does not turn us into recipients and givers…it is simply spreading the wealth and basic equality.”
Parker continued to showcase how this type of community food security can lead stronger community ties, thriving local economies, more sustainable ecosystems, and of course, healthier people.
Project Bread has been practicing what they preach as they have been advocating for more urban agriculture, more space for community gardens in inner-cities, and subsidized CSA farm shares.
These shares allow people from anywhere to own a small plot of land on a farm, where they can grow and tend to their own produce. Project Bread has also brought in mobile farmer’s markets to inner-cities.
As if these initiatives were not enough, Project Bread has also began working with chefs and elementary school students to create healthy and affordable food within schools.
While former First-Lady Michelle Obama did a lot to protect the health of many school children by reforming school lunches, Parker believes that there is still more that can be done.
“I was so moved to see so many people come together for the greater good of so many others,” said junior Charles Callaghan. “It was also an honor to see someone so committed to fighting hunger like Mrs. Parker speak in person.”
If you would like to donate to Project Bread, register for the Walk For Hunger, or just learn more about Project Bread and their quest to end hunger, you can do so at their website.The Walk For Hunger will be held on May 7, in Boston.