Hunger Action Summit 2014
“Disrupt. Innovate. Inspire.” These were the words that faced the crowd during the 2014 Hunger Action Summit, and they were a perfect motto for the day. The summit, which has evolved from the Food & Agribusiness Institute’s Hunger Issues Forum, brought together hunger and nutrition activists from the Silicon valley and beyond, and was broken up into three different sections: Setting the Table, Upending the Table, and Clearing the Table. Instead of only focusing on the issues that we are faced with, this year’s summit aimed to initiate true steps and progress toward the alleviation of hunger.
During the Setting the Table portion, speakers presented the problem on different scales and from different angles. These presentations included The Hunger Index by Dr. Drew Starbird, which mapped the gap between the number of meals that are missing and the number of meals that food assistance providers give each year followed by a presentation by Dr. Deborah Frank, a prominent pediatrician, who spoke about hunger and the importance of nutrition in children. The next presentations included the Cost of a Healthy Meal project presentation given by FAI student researchers Selena Pistoresi, Lisa McMonagle, and Tess Gordon, which looks at the connection between expenditures on food and its nutritional value in Santa Clara County and a presentation by Cindy McCown that gave attendees of the forum a picture of what Second Harvest Food Bank is doing currently to confront hunger issues in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Together, these presentations laid the groundwork for the rest of the day by giving those in attendance an idea of the scale and scope challenges we face in combating hunger.
The second part of the day was titled Upending the Table and focused on what could happen if we made drastic innovations to our food assistance systems. The first presentation in this realm spoke to the unmet potential of SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as food stamps or CalFresh). Kim McCoy Wade, the director of the Alliance to Transform Calfresh, spoke on current enrollment in CalFresh and different strategies for having more individuals enroll in the program, touching on the fact that despite the fact that California has the highest poverty rate in the nation, it has the lowest participation rate in SNAP. The second presenter, Sumit Sadana, the Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of Sandisk, told the story of NGO Akshaya Patra in India, which gives out meals to over 1.3 million children every day. He implored those at the summit to imagine how hunger could be changed if a system like Akshaya Patra’s could be used here in the United States. The last presentation was given by Kathy Jackson, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank. She relayed all of the new ways that SHFB is innovating to use Silicon Valley’s potential to alleviate Hunger. These new strategies include mobile applications and new methods of food recovery.
Lastly came the Clearing the Table portion of the day. This session was aimed at bringing change-seekers in attendance together to discuss and explore different ways to alleviate hunger. The topics here included CalFresh, Foodbank Innovations, and large scale feeding. This was the pinnacle of the day and where attendees were able to share their own ideas on how changes can be made to better alleviate hunger.
This summit was the culmination of many ideas and strategies for disrupting the system, innovating new ideas, and inspiring change. It challenged attendees to use what they learned to make what changes they can and to come up with ways to impact hunger.