As I began yesterday, agriculture is so much more than farming and ranching. It takes every day people to make things churn. Today Anthony Pannone, student at Texas A&M, highlights a very important food issue in our back yards. Farmers and Ranchers take pride in the food they produce, but it’s up to every day consumers like you and me to make sure the world has enough food. This is another addition to my month-long series highlighting the diversity of agriculture. Anthony shares why he is proud to be a part of agriculture. Why are YOU Agriculture Proud?
A Farmer of Human Capital
Four plus centuries have passed since my foreign ancestors set foot on the Eastern seaboard. We Americans are lucky. The men, women, and children who established the spoils we enjoy every day did so because they learned to use the soil beneath their feet. But, in fleeing their homelands, escaping persecution for their beliefs about independence, it’s not like they came here and flourished. Yes, times were tough for the weary settlers, dare I say trespassers. Winter was cold. Disease was rampant. Food was scarce. Talk about strong-willed people. They had to be or else they’d a failed their Exodus.
Despite what would eventually happen to them, I’m thankful the Natives helped their fellow humans. Had it not been for Natives, you and I would say colour and drink tea and eat crumpets. Personally, I like the side I sit on in the car when driving. Yep, those crazy savages are the reason I’m here. We should follow their benevolent example set back in the day, especially because today, right now, food insecurity quietly plagues my brothers and sisters of Bryan, Texas.
Though food abounds in restaurants and grocery stores, in food banks and soup kitchens, the People’s fight against hunger persists. Check this, Texas Food Bank Networks reports that approximately 35,000 Brazos County residents are food insecure. U.S. Census Bureau 2011 estimates 194, 851 people live in the county. Of course the numbers will be different, but no doubt this describes where you live, too. I speak for Brazos County, specifically Bryan/College Station, because I live here. Still though, if you replace Brazos with the name of you county then, boom, we’re still talking about the same issue.
Food insecurity. What is it? Whether called hunger or food insecurity, it discriminates and should be forced into therapy so it will learn some manners. Like sustainability and all-natural, the words “food insecurity” mean different things to different people. We know what food is, but what is insecurity? I used the digital dictionary in my computer dashboard, and the first definition says insecurity means “uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; lack of confidence.” We are human so I know we all can relate to that definition, no matter where you live or how much money you make.
It’s the second definition of insecurity that resonates: “the state of being open to danger or threat; lack of protection.” Pair this with food’s definition, “any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink to maintain life and growth.” Wha-la!, a working definition of a person who struggles with food insecurity: A person who is anxious or lacks confidence about their ability to obtain a nutritious substance (aka, food or meal).
But I don’t need to look in a dictionary to know what food insecurity is. In Bryan, I see it every Saturday and Sunday, rain or shine, at the Neal Park Potluck. Hungry little and big Browns, Yellows, Whites, Blacks, Olives, Reds, Creams, and Tans gather and share food and fellowship. Think Thanksgiving as we’re taught in elementary school, only we don’t dress like Pilgrims and Native Americans.
How cool that the community has banded together to cast hunger from the lives of its People. So easy to do, too. I usually get hungry Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. (The potluck begins Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.) Since I’m already planning to eat at or near these times, I just make a little extra and head to the park with my food. No time to cook? Buy Little Caesar’s or Subway or KFC if you want.
I enjoy the entire cooking process, from grocery shopping to serving others, so that’s why if I have enough time then mostly I cook rather than buy pre-made food. I believe, by personally handling the raw food, I establish an emotional bond with the food—which thus connects me and those that eat the food to the farmers and ranchers who provided it. Now, I’m not a numbers guy, but according to my calculations, if ten people each cooked for three others, then we could feed 30 people. Imagine if there were 100 of us! Here, you start by telling your friends, who will then tell their friends, and soon entire communities will be biting small chunks out of the huge problem cookie that is food insecurity.
The first would-be Americans relied on their community to survive. Without that support, who knows what flag you and I would salute. You can start a potluck at a park near you. You can recruit ten people, at least. I know you can do it. Use agriculture as the tool to alleviate food insecurity, and let’s increase human capital.
Anthony Pannone is an I Love Farmers … They Feed My Soul Catalyst for Conversation and an agricultural leadership, education, and communications graduate student at Texas A&M University. He farms knowledge. Contact him via email@example.com or on Twitter.