More than 124,000 people in northern New Mexico don’t have enough to eat. Chances are, you probably know someone who goes without enough food, whether you realize it or not.
But you can help change that! October 16 is World Food Day, a day that is celebrated in more than 150 countries to promote awareness of the importance of food security and the need to make nutritious food available to those who suffer from hunger. World Food Day is the birthday of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). This year’s theme is, “The climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.”
Here in northern New Mexico, World Food Day is a perfect opportunity to celebrate the unique culture and agricultural traditions of our communities by focusing on how we grow food, how we get food and how we learn about food. It’s also an opportunity to recognize those who produce food and those who help others access food and work to end hunger in their communities.
Nutritious food can be expensive, making a balanced diet a luxury for many. Job loss, a family tragedy, poor health or an accident can make anyone anywhere go hungry in a moment. As rising temperatures, more frequent and extended drought and flooding remind us, extreme climate events are making the need to change food production and agricultural practices more and more urgent. And it’s not just changes in climates that impact access to food. Even a financial crisis can dramatically affect people’s ability to feed themselves and their family. Without social safety nets, resiliency measures and good public policies, seemingly small events can set off a cycle of hunger and poverty.
Hunger doesn’t just affect vulnerable people. All of us bear the cost. One in three people admitted to the hospital are malnourished. The care they receive takes longer and is less effective than if they had had enough to eat. Their care costs more. Hungry people also tend to have learning difficulties, are less productive at work, are sick more often and live shorter lives. Ending hunger is not just a moral imperative; it’s a good economic investment.
It takes a lot of energy to produce the food we see in the grocery store, and a large amount of greenhouse gasses are released in the process. But the worst thing is that more than one-third of the food produced worldwide is lost or wasted. Wasted food means wasted money, labor and precious natural resources that go into producing the food. By simply saving leftovers, freezing portions of food, planning meals, buying only what you need, and even buying “ugly” fruits and vegetables (the ones that aren’t pretty but are still good to eat), we each can reduce the effects of food production on the climate.
World Food Day is also an opportunity to learn how you can get involved in strengthening your community’s food system because everyone has the right to be free from hunger. In Santa Fe, a few of the many volunteer opportunities available include Bienvenidos Outreach (bienvenidosfoodpantry.org), Kitchen Angels (kitchenangels.org) and The Food Depot (thefooddepot.org). In Taos, the local farmers’ market has a program making fresh produce available to low-income families (farmersmarketsnm.org). In fact, just about every community has a farmers’ market, and those markets participate in a variety of programs to extend access to fresh, locally grown produce. If volunteering isn’t a possibility, World Food Day organizers have created a list of actions individuals can take to help minimize their impact on the climate: www.fao.org/world-food-day/2016/climate-actions/en.
Tony McCarty, executive director of Kitchen Angels, led the capital campaign to build the Coll-Green Angel Depot, a facility devoted to ending hunger in New Mexico. He also co-chaired the committee that established the City & County of Santa Fe Advisory Council on Food Policy.