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It’s no secret that we love talking about money. After all, our mission here is to “inspire better conversations about money”. But if you hang around here long enough, you’ll also learn we love food which explains why so much of our content incorporates it. We often use culinary analogies to explain financial concepts or use restaurants as a backdrop for our videos because it makes talking about money more fun and less intimidating. And like anything else, when you explore a subject deeply, you uncover the ugly bits that aren’t quite so lighthearted. In this case, it’s flat out heartbreaking.
Did you know that in the US, approximately one in every four household experiences food insecurity?
We uncovered this statistic a few years ago and it blew our minds. Perhaps, because something as simple and necessary as food seems so plentiful in our lives, we struggled to understand why so many people [still] didn’t have enough of it. That this persistent shortfall of food was happening in the United States of America and made worse by the pandemic. And that while millions of families don’t have enough food to eat; approximately 40% of all food produced is just thrown away.
…while millions of families don’t have enough food to eat; approximately 40% of all food produced is just thrown away.
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We asked ourselves—how could this be possible?
And then we’d snap back into reality when we thought about all of the other senseless tragedies, conflicts and crises that seemingly go ignored in this country. We’re looking at you Flint, Michigan; Jackson, Mississippi and Puerto Rico. It’s all a sobering reminder of how experimental and fragile our way of life is and why it’s so important for people to be the change they want to see.
So as we began planning our book tour and media plan, we committed to sharing the plethora of media attention we garnered with this important issue whenever we could. And in the spirit of our book, we turned to our community for help because we knew they’d rally to support the effort.
The response and result was amazing. Between the tour stops, social media fundraisers and events over a two month period, we were able to raise enough money ($2,000+ dollars) to provide over 8,000 meals to the people in need in every city we visited.
Fighting food insecurity with integrity
Like many people, throughout our lives, we’ve participated in food drives. They’re usually simple requests to bring non-perishable goods from home to a central location where they’re all collected and donated to organizations who either redeploy the food to organizations or prepare the food for consumption. This process is obviously a key contributor to feeding people in need but it’s not without it flaws—some of which we’ve only recently begun to truly understand.
First, the food we’ve seen prepared isn’t great. It’s usually batch-made and slapped on a plate with very little emphasis placed on flavor or quality. Secondly, there’s often minimal concern given to nutritional standards or specialty needs. Let’s ne honest—in most of these environments, the food is given under the pretense that a “good-enough, hot meal” is better than nothing. Knowing this, we opted to focus our giving to organizations who are innovative and place an emphasis on all the areas, many food related non-profit organizations ignore.
Some of these organizations are literally ran by working professional chefs who prepare the food with the same level of care they do for paying customers in their restaurants. Others place a focus on the dining experience by allowing people in need to eat in a similar restaurant style experience. Altogether, each of the organizations we chose were not your typical food insecurity non-profits and placed an emphasis on ensuring the recipients were served with dignity and respect. We LOVE this approach and hope more organizations follow their lead.
The non-profit organizations we made donations to
We conducted as much research as we could before we visited each city to find organizations we felt were doing amazing work. But in a few cases, we simply asked the attendees of each tour stop to tell us which groups were worthy of the donation. In the end, these were the groups we chose.
Umi Feeds in Atlanta, Georgia
We first heard of this group a few years ago during the early days of the pandemic. We were in the market for a deep freezer and decided to buy and donate an extra freezer to someone in need. Our Instagram followers overwhelmingly pointed us in Erica’s direction so it only felt right to continue to help her and the team at Umi Feds keep up the great work they were doing in Atlanta
Everybody Eats Philly in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:
We didn’t initially plan on supporting this group but after asking the attendees who we should help, they overwhelmingly pointed us to this amazing chef-led non-profit organization that has been supporting the city of Philadelphia since 2020. This was especially important given Philadelphia is one of the most-challenged cities with respect to food insecurity.
DC Greens in Washington DC
One of our politically active friends who lives in DC actually introduced us to this organization who is tackling food insecurity in a very different way. Instead of just focusing on providing meals, they focus heavily on fixing and shaping the food production system through advocacy and policy. “Since 2009, DC Greens has partnered with residents community leaders and local officials in Ward 8 to create community and systems-level change” according to the AARP.
Crossroads in Dallas, Texas
This organization is one of the largest organizations we supported in terms of the breadth of programs and resources offered. At their pantry, they have an experienced and registered dietitian and use algorithms to match the kinds and amounts of food issued to recipients. In their own words using “this distribution method, we get the RIGHT AMOUNTS of the RIGHT FOODS to the RIGHT PEOPLE”.
A Place at The Table in Raleigh, North Carolina
Hands down, the most innovative organization we supported was this group which actually manages a restaurant where people can “pay what you can”. People in need can use tokens which are funded by donations and regular diners can opt to leave a little extra above-and-beyond their bill to go towards supporting the organizations’ mission.
Seva Truck in Richmond, Virginia
This group is actually a partnership between two families. One family owns farmland and has dedicated a plot to growing fresh food. The other owns a food truck that prepares the food harvested from the farm. Together, on the truck, they drive around and support their local community with delicious and nutritious farm to table cuisine.
What else can be done to fight food insecurity
We hate to bring you down from your inspiration high but here’s the reality of fighting food insecurity. While it seems like this is something we can easily solve for in the US, the reality is, it’s a really complex issue. And like every other public crisis we hope to address in our lifetime, it will require both the public and private sector to get it done.
The good news is, there seems to be a newfound level of attention being paid to food insecurity by the federal government. In fact, on Wednesday, September 28, the Biden Administration is hosting the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. This is the first conference of it’s kind in over 50 years! The result will be a national plan of action to drive solutions to these challenges.
The Biden-Harris Administration has even gone so far as to state their intentions to end hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030 which is pretty bold. So if you’d like to get involved, here’s what you can do.
- Donate to any of the organizations we listed above or commit to supporting those in your local community
- Share your own ideas and stories with the White House. They even provide a toolkit you can use to conduct partner-led convenings in your local area
- Consider allocating a [greater] portion of your budget to giving
- Be mindful of your own food waste
In the past, we’ve been hesitant to talk about our giving for two reasons.
First, it can be viewed as as self-centered behavior that is more focused on us than the issue we’re working to remedy. Secondly, it’s lead to overwhelming solicitations for help from people who are in desperate need. But now that we have a taste of what a concentrated community effort can do, we’re much more interested in being strategic and outspoken through our platform despite the unwanted and unfortunate consequences.
…now that we have a taste of what a concentrated community effort can do, we’re much more interested in being strategic and outspoken through our platform despite the unwanted and unfortunate consequences.
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As we think about the people who’ve inspired us on our FI journey, many of them have become staunch advocates for various causes that matter to them. From climate change to women’s rights, to financial illiteracy and supporting the disabled, there’s so much we can all do to make our local communities better than they are today. We’re inspired by them and hope someday, others say the same about us.
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