Food insecurity is a pandemic. It has grown out of proportion, spreading and proving difficult to alleviate. Food insecurity is defined as the lack of access to sustainable, quality, healthy food due to socioeconomic status, education level or government policies.
There are many different faces to this injustice. People living in food insecurity may be able to buy enough food for a few weeks but struggle to afford meals toward the end of their paycheck. They may have to cut corners and skip meals to ensure their kids have enough to eat. There are also situations where one has the money to buy food, but only enough to buy cheap, unhealthy food which provides no nutritional value and causes other health issues.
There are an estimated 690 million people in the world that are food insecure, according to Feeding America. The organization also reports that here in the United States, there are more than 50 million people who are food insecure, and 17 million of those people are children.
In South Dakota, 1 in 9 people struggle with food insecurity, according to Feeding South Dakota. That amounts to 95,080 people. In Minnehaha County, 17,690 people are food insecure. About 9% of the population of Sioux Falls is affected by food insecurity. Even staff and students at Augustana University experience food insecurity.
What is being done?
Federal food assistance programs are in place to help those who experience food insecurity on the national level. The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program that provides nutritional, low-cost or free lunches for children at school each day.
The WIC (Women, Infant, and Children Program) provides supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income women with children. SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) provides food supplements to the food budget of low income families with the hope to move them toward self-sufficiency. Programs such as SNAP provide 38 million people in the U.S. with necessary and healthy food in the hopes of alleviating food insecurity.
Here in Minnehaha county, 44% of the population is below the SNAP threshold and are eligible for nutritional assistance, according to Feeding South Dakota. The organization has found that in South Dakota, every dollar claimed by a household through the SNAP program generates around $1.70 in economic activity.
These are national solutions to the problem of food insecurity, but what is being done in the Augustana community?
The Augustana Campus Cupboard was started by the Augustana Student Association (ASA), Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and Augustana Dining Services in fall 2019. Their goal is to fight food insecurity by providing both perishable and non-perishable food and hygiene products.
All members of the Augustana and University of Sioux Falls communities have access to the Campus Cupboard. The cupboard serves an average of 12 to 15 students a month with 80 to 100 total items depending on the needs, according to Debbie Theis, the food coordinator at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. Over winter break, the Campus Cupboard served more than 50 students from both colleges. The cupboard also provided a Christmas Eve dinner.
If you are a student in need of food assistance, don’t be afraid to visit the Campus Cupboard. It is located in the basement of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church next to the west entrance off of Prairie Avenue. The cupboard is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 9 to 11 a.m.
The Campus Cupboard is a great way to help the community and help in the fight against food insecurity. There is always a need for volunteers to help with inventory, stocking and distribution.