Hunger is a community issue. Even though it's often deemed a personal or family issue, the impact of hunger on the health and economic potential of a man, woman or child affects the quality of life for everyone in a community.
Poverty and hunger go hand-in-hand, as do poverty and poor health. In communities and counties in which hunger is chronic, hunger relief that's sustainable and effective must be locally-driven, planned and supported.
Unfortunately, local responses - both formal and informal - are usually not connected, a fact that prevents the creation of a seamless system. But the good news is that these informal, non-organized responses to hunger can sometimes provide the backbone for a broader, community-wide response, especially when working in partnership with organizations or government entities.
Enter the Arkansas Foodbank, and our Local Partner Development Initiative (LPDI).
LPDI is our three-year effort to test and implement a place-based, community-focused process that results in local, seamless systems of relief for hungry Arkansans. It's a model for involving local residents and resources in addressing local hunger both holistically and in ways that are systemic and sustainable. Three communities per year will be involved - targeted because of chronic hunger and poverty.
HOW IT WORKS
All of the targeted communities have resources to address hunger - what they lack is a systematic approach to identifying the challenges and adopting the solutions to meet those challenges.
Here are the steps LPDI takes:
- Conduct community inventory of assets that could address hunger relief
- Meet with local and regional elected officials to raise awareness of the economic and quality of life impact that hunger has on communities
- Convene town meetings to discuss the current reality of hunger and its impact
- Develop connections among existing resources
- Facilitate the creation of strategies for hunger relief
- Provide small startup grants for community-devised solutions
- Facilitate the creation of a permanent "hunger relief alliance" in the communities
And with support from the Walmart Foundation and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, we've thus far helped local communities open new pantries (or increase the capacity of existing pantries) in three underserved Arkansas counties: Chicot, Desha and Bradley. The same process is now being used in Hot Springs, Marianna and Stuttgart. LPDI has become the way we work in underserved communities. By focusing on awareness and education before any actual development begins, the probability that a community will respond to the challenge of hunger in a concerted effort is greatly increased.