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students helping with food preparation at Pine Street Inn
February 16, 2021

Hunger in America

Students take a deep dive into food insecurity
by Allyson Irish

What was already a disturbing reality for many Americans has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 50 million people are now food insecure according to Feeding America, the largest hunger relief organization in the U.S.

The problem of food insecurity—its root causes, demographic impact, and intertwining challenges—was discussed in depth this winter through a new interscholastic program with nearly 60 students from PA and seven other schools including Lawrenceville, Deerfield, and Taft.

Coordinated through Andover’s Office of Community Engagement, the six-week session included a deep dive into “Hunger in America” with guest speakers such as Sue Sirois, executive director of Bread & Roses in Lawrence, Mass.; PA Rabbi Michael Swartzz; and Bing Broderick ’81, executive director of Haley House in Boston.

“It’s the first time we are expanding programming to include students from other schools,” says Monique Cueto-Potts, director of the Office of Community Engagement. “And it’s an example of one of the innovative ways we’ve adjusted due to the pandemic.”
Food insecurity is a multi-layered problem that will require a multi-layered approach for solutions. Here, Andover students assist at the Greater Boston Food Bank in 2019.

Ines Durant ’21 and Emily Mae Murtha ’22 helped organize the program. Durant has been working with community organizations to address hunger since her junior year and was excited to be working with peers from other schools.

“I love to help people, especially with such a basic yet unmet human need as food and especially during the time of COVID-19 when food insecurity has been rapidly increasing,” Durant says. “Andover can sometimes feel like a bubble, but being able to learn about and take action against food insecurity is essential.”

Broderick joined the group in January to discuss his work at Haley House, a 55-year-old nonprofit that uses food as a community connector and provides a spectrum of programs including a soup kitchen, food pantry, affordable housing, a community farm, culinary training, and Haley House Bakery Café, which provides healthy, affordable food and job opportunities.

In working with many different community organizations, Broderick says he has seen examples of positive change through initiatives like the Boston Food Access Council and the Boston Ujima Project, yet more needs to be done. “We need to change the drivers of food insecurity,” he says. “How do we create more of a grassroots food system?”

Through the Hunger in America program, students like Durant have identified many of the challenges related to food insecurity, including misconceptions about who is impacted and why.

I think a main takeaway is that anyone can be food insecure in any circumstance. There isn’t one cause or one solution or one way hunger looks, and to truly fix it we all need to understand that. What interests me is finding a solution to hunger that addresses the root causes instead of a band-aid solution.

Ines Durant ’21 Participant, Hunger in America program

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