Although economic times seem to have improved since the Great Recession, many people still struggle to make ends meet.
One measure of this is food insecurity - limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.
Nationally, food insecurity has come down in the past two years. Data from 2014 show food insecurity in the US at 15.4 percent. El Paso fared better at 11 percent.
However, if we consider data from households with children, food insecurity rates in El Paso climb to 25.5 percent, well above the U.S. rate of 20.9 percent. To think that more than 1 in 4 of the children living in our county does not have enough food to eat is heartbreaking, but it also means they are at greater risk of many health problems.
The Paso del Norte Institute for Healthy Living (IHL), in partnership with the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, is working to address food insecurity in our region. Among the many efforts are:
- A project in partnership with The Food Trust, a national non-profit organization that specializes in assessing the food access landscape, convening stakeholders to develop recommendations, and providing training to build local capacity to implement healthy food access programming.
- Re-establishment of the Food Policy Council in El Paso in partnership with Margaux Dalbin from United Way and Gary Williams from El Paso Community Foundation.
- A new program called Fresh Start at Kelly Memorial Food Pantry.
- A project called Growing Food Connections out of Doña Ana County in partnership with the Mesilla Valley Food Policy Council and La Semilla Food Center.
- Many community-based organizations in Juárez working to provide food to food-insecure children and families including Ciudadanos Comprometidos con La Paz (CCOMPAZ), Centro de Asesoria y Promoción Juvenil (CASA), and Arbol de Vida.
- Working with local school lunch programs to help increase participation.
- A recent partnership with UTEP for the “UTEP Grand Challenge” event that challenged teams of students and faculty to “create innovative public/private policies or programs that will increase fruit and vegetable access to food insecure people.”
We have a unique environment here along the border. According to Miriam Manon from The Food Trust, who is studying the border dynamics and how they affect food access in our region, “It is important to take into consideration the culture of the border as it relates to how people purchase and access food. The border dynamic can present challenges, but also great opportunities. We look forward to working with the IHL and other stakeholders in the region to discuss the state of access to healthy food and the role that public policy and philanthropic efforts can play in helping to address these issues.”
What are some ways in which you can help?
- Encourage your children and others to participate in the school lunch program. These lunches are regulated through the USDA and provide low or no-cost nutritious meals for school children.
- Volunteer your time or give a financial donation to a local food pantry or food bank (http://www.elpasoansfightinghunger.org/ or http://www.rrfb.org/).
For more information about the projects and programs described here, contact the Institute for Healthy Living at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on food insecurity in our region, go to http://www.healthypasodelnorte.org/
Leah Whigham, PhD, FTOS, Executive Director of Paso del Norte Institute for Healthy Living.