Earlier this week, during National Night Out, I took my dog for a walk through the mazes of bouncy castles and water guns and smoking BBQ pits.
We were wandering interlopers. Gathering snapshots of the blocks and communities that surround us.
A woman came over with her kids and asked if she could pet my dog. "Where do you live?" I asked. Because this is the awkward intro question people ask each other on National Night Out. She told me she lived about eight blocks away. She said she was stopping at parties all over because, she admitted, "my kids and me are hungry." They were going from block to block, she said, picking out pieces to make their first good meal in days.
The thing is, this is not so unusual.
According to recent data from Hunger Solutions Minnesota, 1 in 5 families in Minnesota faces hunger or food insecurity. To be "food insecure" means you lack access to enough nutritious food for an active, healthy life.
Rising food insecurity—or not knowing where your next meal is coming from—is the result of numerous shifting factors. Food affordability. Increased personal debt. Price surges. The housing crisis. Changing medical needs and costs. Steady employment.
According to HSM, Minnesota's real household income is down 9.5 percent over the last ten years. And in the summertime, without school lunches, it gets increasingly hard for families already on the brink to make ends meet. In 2013, HSM says, food-shelf usage in the nine-county metro area reached a record number 1.7 million visits. Or a nearly 50 percent increase from pre-recession numbers.
Unpacking all of the issues related to food insecurity (public policy, farming, the economy, a growing public health crisis) is a lot to do in this short blog post.
But here is a small snapshot of people you probably know. People in your community. People who live a few blocks away. People who live next door....
Molly Priesmeyer is the co-owner of Good Work Group, a creative and storytelling consultancy dedicated to helping mission-driven businesses and organizations succeed. Her stories on culture, the arts, and the environment have appeared in the Star Tribune; Pioneer Press; Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine; Rolling Stone; MinnPost; and others. She's been working on her novel, "Why Me? A Martyr's Guide to Live," since 5th grade. She can be reached at www.mollypriesmeyer.com.