Courtesy of Feeding America

Diana Aviv, CEO of America's largest hunger relief organization, addressed the President's Council of Cornell Women this Friday.

March 5, 2017

Feeding America CEO: U.S. Hunger ‘Staggering’

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Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America, told the President’s Council of Cornell Women on Friday that the state of hunger across the nation can be summarized in one word: “scandalous.”

Aviv examined the enormity of the problem of domestic food insecurity and the inability to ascertain when, where or how future meals will be obtained.

“The scope of [hunger] is frankly staggering,” Aviv said, “One in every eight people don’t get enough nutritious, healthy food on a regular basis. Fourteen percent of American households are food insecure.”

Aviv contextualized food insecurity by sharing just a few of the stories of the 46 million individuals that Feeding America — the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization — helps annually.

For instance, Aviv relayed the story of Jennifer, who she said works 65 hours a week but still lives in the shadow of food insecurity due to the absence of livable wages.

College campuses are not excluded from the endemic problem of food insecurity, Aviv said.

“Crunch time often hits when students need to buy books, their prepaid monthly meal cards run out, or during academic breaks when dining halls are closed,” Aviv said. “Often, at these times, students don’t know where their next meal will come from.”

While Aviv established that hunger has no single story, and that food-insecure individuals have no typical profile, she urged the audience to consider both the individual circumstances and the broad socioeconomic conditions that are conducive to food insecurity.

For Aviv, the problem of food insecurity can also be related to an almost reckless attitude towards food, especially in the United States.

Food insecurity “is further compounded by the tragic paradox in America, and that is that our country produces enough food to feed the world, and yet 40 percent of usable, consumable food ends up in landfills,” Aviv said.

Consequently, the scope of the problem of food insecurity in America is not only limited to food-insecure individuals, but also extended to businesses, corporations and ordinary Americans who partake in the habit of wastefulness.

“Can we, people lucky enough to live in one of the most prosperous nations on the planet, allow our neighbors to go hungry everyday?” Aviv asked.

For Feeding America, the answer is a resounding “no.” Aviv described how the organization has not only worked with local food banks and pantries to provide immediate hunger relief and supported legislation to reduce food waste, but also formed partnerships with national food corporations to redistribute food.

Aviv emphasized all the ways in which any American could be part of the solution.

Reducing personal food waste, donating personal resources to food banks and hunger-relief organizations and contacting local representatives regarding hunger-related policies are among some of the solutions Aviv noted.

She acknowledged that, as complex as the problem of domestic food insecurity is, there is no single or easy solution.

While Aviv recognized the obstacles of addressing the problem at all levels, she maintained that we must form partnerships between the government, businesses and the people, and continue to push forward.

Aviv refused to consider the challenge as being insurmountable, encouraging all Americans to participate in the fight against food insecurity in whatever capacity.

“It will take our time, and our talent and our resources, as well as our collective tenacity … in our pursuit of a hunger-free America,” Aviv said.