A New Food Security Strategy
As food banks around the country are increasingly stressed by the combination of declining budgets and increased demand for services, many are struggling to find ways to cope. A story on NPR outlined one strategy by the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, located in Tucson. There, more than fifty families who live in one of the city’s lower income neighborhoods and depend on the food bank to meet their basic needs have been given garden plots on which to grow their own food. Robert Ojeda, who oversees the garden program, described it as “part of a growing movement within food banking” that starts communities thinking more about food self-sufficiency and gets people “thinking about long-term solutions to the problem of higher and really getting at the core issues.”
In addition to setting up and helping run the community farm at Las Milpitas de Cottonwood, the Community Food Bank has also helped more than 1,000 people set up household gardens, which provide a source of fresh produce and a stream of additional income, as participants can sell their surpluses at farmers’ markets also run by the food bank. The Food Bank has also trained people to raise chickens and bees.
Such a model represents a real shift from strategies of food security—which are often dependent on external funding and resources—to a strategy of food sovereignty rooted in the community. There’s a lot to learn from such an approach.