'Food gap' threatens millions in U.S., activist tells Gettysburg College audience

A "food gap" in the United States leaves some 36 million people "insecure" about where their next meal is coming from, without access to healthy food, and at increased risk for obesity and diabetes, author and activist Mark Winne said Sept. 30 at Gettysburg College.

Winne, former executive director of the Hartford Food System in Connecticut and the author of "Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty," addressed approximately 100 students, faculty members, and local activists in conjunction with a community action workshop.

"There are significant disparities in access to food, and they fall along lines of race and economics," said Winne, describing separate food systems for America's "haves" and "have-nots." Inner cities and rural areas have been "abandoned" by supermarkets, he said, leaving convenience stores and fast-food franchises as the only sources of food. By contrast, he said, affluent areas enjoy easy access to healthy food, including organic produce.

The keys to "food justice," Winne said, include not only broad-based partnerships to offer programs such as food banks and community farmers' markets, but also changes in public policy to address the root causes of poverty through measures such as a "living wage," health insurance, and job training. "Too many people are working but not making enough money to feed themselves," he said.

During his 24 years with the non-profit Hartford Food System, Winne helped develop commercial food businesses, the Connecticut's Farmers' Market Nutrition Program, farmers' markets, a 25-acre community supported agriculture farm, a food bank, food and nutrition education programs, and a neighborhood supermarket. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bates College and a master's from Southern New Hampshire University.

Sponsoring the event were Gettysburg College's Center for Public Service (CPS) and Circles of Support of Gettysburg. CPS's programs include Campus Kitchen Project, which recycles leftover pre-consumer food from both the campus Dining Center and local restaurants into meals for senior citizens. Circles of Support aims to transform communities by building relationships that inspire and equip people to end poverty.

Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with approximately 2,600 students. It is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. The college was founded in 1832.

By Jim Hale

Posted Sept. 30, 2008

Posted: Tue, 30 Sep 2008

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