Who am I and why am I writing this blog? To start, my name is Jordan Tisaranni and I am currently a senior at the University of Maryland studying Marketing, International Business, and nonprofit leadership. My goal with my degree is to apply what I have learned in business school to organizations focused on solving societal problems, such as FEAST Virginia! The skills that drive profits in the corporate world are the same that drive efficiency and donations in the nonprofit world, and as such they are needed just the same.
My interest in solving food insecurity began with a research project on food waste, where I learned that the problem was not in the amount of food being produced but in the allocation of these resources. For the first time as a human race we have more than enough to go around, and the amount of food wasted on an annual basis is enough to feed everyone that is hungry 4 times over. This fact alone was enough to inspire me to join the fight in whatever ways I could, and while levels of food insecurity in this country seem to be only rising, the more people that we can educate and involve in this conversation the better. By writing this blog I hope to present relevant information in a digestible way to inspire as many people as possible to find ways to help!
To share more about my experiences with tackling food insecurity, I have recently had the opportunity to witness up close the desperate situations that many are experiencing right now. Every Saturday I help with mutual aid in DC and hear the stories of people that effectively have been left behind by the system. Even in our nation's capital that is home to some of the wealthiest and most powerful individuals in the country, there are pockets of neighborhoods that don’t even have a grocery store. Many that do are still suffering from a lack of fresh produce, and affordable nutritious food that is required to fulfill basic human needs. We call these areas “food deserts” and they unfortunately exist in urban and rural areas alike. Amplifying the stories of the people experiencing these situations is another crucial part of what I aim to do with this platform, as I do believe that the solution is best known to the people experiencing the problem.
For those who are still reading, you may be wondering how I got involved with FEAST VA, and while I am not even from the state of Virginia, my mother’s side of the family is deeply rooted here. I was introduced to my second cousin Bev Sell, the wonderful founder of this organization, over a family FaceTime and realized that we had similar interests. I was so inspired by her dedication to helping those most vulnerable in her community and the solutions that she had implemented by far and offered to help in any way that I could. With my educational pursuits in nonprofit leadership & social innovation, it was determined that I would start writing blog posts for the website to help engage people interested in food insecurity with FEAST VA.
As we welcome a new administration into the white house the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage on across the nation, with the death toll surpassing 475,000 just a few days ago (New York Times). While this change in administration is promising to many, today there are millions of people both infected with the virus and suffering from the disparaging economic fallout including food insecurity, unemployment, and eviction. Those Americans already living in poverty have undeniably suffered the most given the fragility of their situations, and with COVID-19 welcoming an additional 15 million citizens to this category, the public assistance programs that help keep them afloat are faced with an increasingly daunting challenge. In Virginia alone, the number of residents facing food insecurity grew by over 50%, leaving over a million Virginians questioning the source of their next meal (Virginia Road Map to End Hunger).
Biden’s recent release of his $1.9 Trillion coronavirus stimulus plan includes an extension of the 15% increase in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits through September of 2021 for the programs 43 million beneficiaries, which will provide crucial aid to many hit hardest by the pandemic. However, the bulk of the work will continue to fall on the shoulders of nonprofits. As quoted in Virginia’s Roadmap to End Hunger, seven regional food banks “represent the largest charitable response to hunger in the Commonwealth,” meaning these nonprofit organizations provided more support to those in need than any of the federally funded programs available. Even with the “nonprofit sector” first being considered an established market in the 1970s, the wide range of organizations that exist under this umbrella provide a larger safety net to Americans than the government or private sectors ever have. The concept of charity and mutual aid between fellow humans has certainly existed long before that, but the two main bodies tasked with solving major humanitarian and social issues were the government and the private sector. Most evidence suggests neither of these bodies made much progress, partly due to a lack of resources (pre industrial revolution), and partly due to apathy and the normalization of significant wealth inequality. Now, there is no denying that we have more than enough food to go around. With the introduction of what many call the “social sector” we are starting to see more progress in addressing hunger and other issues; but it goes without saying that there is a lot of work to be done.
Without going into too much detail (we’ll save that for the next post!), one of the major faults of the food stamp program is that it only allows for the purchase of the cheapest and most basic food items that consequently take the most time to prepare. For example, dried beans are less costly than canned beans (and therefore are the only kind food stamps allow for), but require an overnight soak and up to an hour on the stove whereas a standard can of beans is ready to eat. As a result, those with objectively the least amount of spare time and energy are forced to cook everything from scratch which requires not only time but also serious skill and access to recipes. This is where an organization like FEAST comes in to provide the required nutritional and culinary knowledge that government programs fail to deliver. As they say at FEAST, food insecurity is an issue that will require all of us to solve, and no one sector or organization can do it alone.
Hope you enjoyed my first post! More Coming Soon. -Jordan Tisaranni