The Months-Long Listening Initiative Gathered Input From People Facing Hunger To Help Inform Policies To End Hunger in America
Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief network, today published the Elevating Voices to End Hunger Together: Community-Driven Solutions to Address America’s Hunger Crisis report, which includes insights and anti-hunger policy recommendations from nearly 36,000 people across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The report, released on Hunger Action Day, is a culmination of a three-month listening initiative launched earlier this summer with the goal to help ensure the Sept. 28 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and the subsequent policy conversations are informed by people facing hunger. The initiative included listening sessions, a commissioned survey, online questionnaires and text message conversations with people who self-identified as facing challenges getting the food they need.
People who took part in the Elevating Voices initiative shared their experiences and ideas for solutions to end hunger. To encourage participation and reduce stigma, Feeding America ensured participants would remain anonymous. The activities were conducted in both English and Spanish.
One participant in Cass County, North Dakota, shared: “There is not one-size-fits-all and I literally have fallen through nearly every crack. Create flexibility in programs so that people can qualify.”
Another participant in Chester County, Pennsylvania, told us: “Espero tener salud y potencial para sobrellevar y mejorar todo esto nada es fácil pero imposible tampoco." ("I hope to have health and potential to prosper and better my surroundings; nothing is easy, but nothing is impossible either.")
“Feeding America believes the best ideas for ending hunger come from the communities experiencing it,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America. “This report puts the voices of the people we serve at the center and what they are telling us is clear—to end hunger, we must all come together to co-create solutions. They are asking us to be bold, to prioritize dignity, to increase access to healthy food and to expand economic opportunities. Feeding America is listening, and we are ready to get to work alongside our neighbors facing hunger, communities and partners to end hunger.”
The solutions in the report supported by people facing hunger focus on four key areas: prioritizing dignity, increasing access, expanding opportunity and improving health. An overwhelming majority of respondents to Feeding America’s survey (92%) agreed that to actually reduce hunger, the government, the private sector, nonprofits, local institutions and communities must come together to create solutions. Eighty-eight percent said it was important to support people's dignity and choices in what they feed their families, and 78% want the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to make it easier to access healthy foods, not restrict food choices.
“Last year, 53 million people turned to the charitable food sector for help,” Babineaux-Fontenot continued. “The scale of the problem is immense. But if we work together, it is solvable. As I’ve traveled the country visiting Feeding America network food banks, I have seen communities come together with the common goal of helping neighbors in need. It is that spirit of community that we hope to bring to life through this report. Hunger exists in every county, borough and parish in this country. Imagine if we harnessed the power of this great nation to end hunger. If we engaged every citizen, every elected official and every organization in a unified effort. If we did that, we could ensure everyone in the U.S., no matter their race, background or ZIP code, could have access to the food and resources they need to thrive.”
As food prices have risen dramatically this year, many members of the Feeding America network of 200 food banks, 21 statewide associations and 60,000 faith-based and charitable partner food pantries and meal programs are reporting increased or sustained demand for food assistance. Meanwhile, supply chain issues are reducing food donations and causing food banks to spend more money purchasing food to help meet demand. This is not sustainable in the long term. The Elevating Voices to End Hunger Together report includes policy recommendations to help people in need today and address the root causes of food insecurity to eradicate hunger across the nation.
This first-of-its-kind report from Feeding America elevates the experiences, concerns and ideas of people across the U.S. who have faced challenges getting the food they need. The anti-hunger solutions in the report—informed by people facing hunger—broadly focus on:
Prioritizing the dignity of people facing hunger. A few examples of policy recommendations that center on dignity include:
- Congress should increase benefit levels for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and expand eligibility to help more people buy more nutritious foods.
- Congress should expand options for people receiving SNAP benefits by increasing funding for the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) and other proven approaches that encourage healthy food purchases, instead of limiting choices.
Increasing access to grocery stores and food assistance. A few examples of policy recommendations that would help increase access include:
- Congress should increase The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) funding—for food purchases as well as storage and distribution costs—through the 2023 Farm Bill.
- Congress should improve and simplify access to the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program by allowing more schools to offer free meals to all students by expanding community eligibility and increasing opportunities to directly certify children for free meals.
Expanding economic opportunity by addressing the root causes of hunger. A few examples of policy recommendations that would tackle intersecting root causes, such as economic and social conditions, include:
- Congress should improve the SNAP benefit-taper structure to reduce the “benefits cliff” by raising income thresholds to phase out benefits more gradually and provide people with more stability on the path toward self-sufficiency.
- Congress should permanently expand the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.
Improving health outcomes for individuals and families experiencing food insecurity. A few examples of health-focused policy recommendations include:
- Congress should support and fund produce prescription initiatives through U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) programs.
- Congress should support and provide funding for food pantries located in health care settings.
Elevating Voices to End Hunger Together is a Feeding America network initiative to gather input from people with lived experience through listening sessions, a survey, questionnaires and texts. The Elevating Voices report synthesizes insights from nearly 36,000 people across the country who self-identified as having faced challenges getting the food they need. These individuals and their opinions are not representative of all people facing hunger.
Visit FeedingAmerica.org/ElevatingVoices to learn more about joining Feeding America in the fight to end hunger.
Please contact one of our media representatives or call 800-771-2303
About Feeding America
Feeding America® is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. Through a network of more than 200 food banks, 21 statewide food bank associations, and over 60,000 partner agencies, food pantries and meal programs, we helped provide 6.6 billion meals to tens of millions of people in need last year. Feeding America also supports programs that prevent food waste and improve food security among the people we serve; brings attention to the social and systemic barriers that contribute to food insecurity in our nation; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.