In Learn2, part1
, I shared the data I found, revealing that even in the "wealthiest county in the USA" food security is still an issue for thousands of people.
In Learn2, part2, I will share the three most most innovative projects working to increase food security in my community that I was able to find:
(1) The "Plant a Row for the Hungry" volunteer network in Loudoun County, VA.
[Further research showed that the PAR program was actually nation-wide
, so if you are in the US, it might be worth checking if there is something similar in your community.]
It's a very simple idea. People who garden anyway
are asked to plant more than they need so that they can donate some of their harvest to other people who do need it. Loudoun Interfaith Relief
, the largest food pantry in the county, collects the produce from the PAR program and distributes it through their food bank. 2009 was the program's inaugural year in Loudoun County and over 12,000 lbs of fresh produce was collected and distributed!
Established in 2009, the VA Food System Council's mission is to "advance a nutrient-rich and safe food system for Virginians at all income levels, with an emphasis on access to local food, successful linkages between food producers and consumers, and a healthy viable future for Virginia’s farmers and farmland." The council brings together such diverse actors as local farmers, school systems, retailers, non-profits, schools and government agencies to work together to forward these goals.
One of the new council's major initiatives was just this week passed into law by the VA State Legislature. Virginia now has an official, "Farm to School" week each year in which local producers will be providing locally grown produce and food to be served as part of the school lunch program. From the press release:
This is a beginning step in changing the quality of school nutrition while providing economic opportunities for our farming community and strengthening farm-to-table connections throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.
As it's described in the newsletter
from which I first heard about it:
405,340 pounds or 1.6 million servings were provided to those in need throughout Virginia in 2009 alone.
Virginia is full of venison—the ultimate free-range, natural, local meat. And Virginia has plenty of families in want, struggling to put healthy food on the table.Enter Hunters for the Hungry, a nonprofit based in Big Island, Virginia, that pays dozens of processors throughout the state to butcher deer donated by hunters, then distributes the meat to local charities. The organization has provided nearly 3.75 million pounds of venison to food banks and church food pantries statewide since 1991.
And lest anyone think that this amount of hunting in unsustainable of environmentally irresponsible, it's important to note that deer hunting is carefully regulated by the state with an eye toward managing the deer population
for the safety and health of both deer and humans.
Under optimal conditions, a deer population can double in size annually. With no regulating factor (e.g., predators, hunters), a deer population would expand to the point where some resources, generally food, would become scarce. Sources of mortality other than hunting (e.g., diseases, injuries, predation) are typically not sufficient to control deer populations.
While deer population levels
across the state of Virginia vary, Loudoun County is still considered to be over-populated with deer.