Frustration summed up how Andrew Fischer felt after a decade of being met with resistance from “anti-hunger” groups while working with food banks.
The author of “Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups,” gave a seminar at the Goodman Community Center Thursday evening about finding solutions to ending chronic hunger in the public health system.
Proposed bill would give discounts on fresh produce to food stamp recipientsWisconsin residents receiving food stamp benefits would be eligible for discounts on fresh produce and other healthy foods under a Read…
Fischer works to give the community access to healthy and local food. In the decade he spent working with food banks, however, he noticed those institutions only functioned as temporary solutions.
Fischer used the example of his son’s school class raising food and money for a food bank as being only an outlook measure.
“It solves a problem today, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problems,” Fischer said.
Fischer believes hunger is a symptom of poverty, and poverty is related to a lack of power.
Originally, food pantries were started as a solution to the deep recession in the 1980s, he said. At the time, it was considered an emergency response, but not something to last decades.
Fischer said the right wing in particular finds food pantries to be beneficial politically because the banks show there is no need for a true solution to food hunger. Fischer said this keeps the hunger problem in a relief phase — but he wants to move to a recovery phase and eventually to a long-term development plan.
“When you do development work out of [the relief] phase you generate unwanted responses of collateral business,” Fischer said.
After working with food pantries, Fischer realized there is a strong power dynamic. He was told to be a personal shopper for the people coming in, and to act like a security guard to those trying to take too much food.
As a result, Fischer said he felt like he was supposed to be more authoritative than he was to those coming in. To get another perspective, Fischer went to a food pantry himself.
“There’s a stigma, there’s a dignity issue,” Fischer said.
Food justice activist places communities of color at center of agriculture narrativeAfter spending five years traveling 15,000 miles, Author and agriculture advocate Natasha Bowens has finally completed her journey across the country Read…
While some food pantries and banks are moving in the right direction by enabling job training programs and community development services, there is still work that needs to be done in eliminating hunger.
Wages is one main issue to hunger in the United States, Fischer said. He wants to encourage food pantries to become actively involved in raising the minimum wage and looking for affordable housing and healthcare.
Fischer used Walmart as an example. As a large company that pays minimum wage, Fischer said they “basically require” their workers to go to food stamps to end their hunger.
David Lee, executive director of Feeding Wisconsin, has seen some of the struggles Walmart employees face. He wants to have an open conversation with Walmart about food hunger to move toward a better solution.
“You have to be able to know what a hunger-free Wisconsin looks like,” Lee said.
Lee’s goal is to articulate an “exit plan” to end hunger. The most challenging obstacle, Lee said, is agreeing on what a hunger-free Wisconsin looks like. Based on people’s personal opinions and histories, it’s hard to come to a definitive answer.
Johnathon Bader, an employee at Wisconsin Community Action Program Association, said an end to hunger can be solved through fundamentals like affordable housing.
“I want people in grocery stores. I don’t want them in food pantries,” Bader said. “I want them to have the dignity of shopping in grocery stores, and having the choice.”