Finding a way to end food insecurity

Schools, college campuses and food books, it's working to bring groups together

Moline, Illinois - Kids and adults in the Quad Cities sometimes struggle to know where their next meal will come from.

Riverbend Food Bank data shows more than 125,000 people are food insecure in their service area.

To continue making a dent in the issue, a Food Insecurity Conference is highlighting the possibility of ending hunger. 

It's bringing together students, teachers and other stakeholders in the area who face the issue first hand.

The idea for the conference was in part inspired by Western Illinois University-Quad Cities graduate student Dan Dankert, who is working to meet that need of students facing food insecurity.

Resources providing help to those who faced food insecurity spoke about what more can be done. 

Liz Hogan-Wells said, "It's severely impacted my life. From the time I was a small child, my dad was involved in a serious car accident."

Liz Hogan-Wells says that left her family sometimes struggling to put food on the table and while also showing her the importance other people serve in making sure kids to adults can have a meal.

That gave her a passion during school to help advocate for food drivers to make sure people have that access to food.

But it wasn't just during Hogan-Wells childhood, food insecurity even followed her into college. 

Hogan-Wells said, "I felt that food pantries weren't an option for me because I wasn't eligible. I wasn't a single mother or homeless, so I honestly struggled through it."

After learning about different resources to help, it's an issue Hogan-Wells has taken to heart, currently working at the Food Rescue Partnership, one of many in the Quad Cities working to address the issue.

President CEO Riverbend Food Bank Mike Miller said, "In 2014, we distribute 7.3 million meals, and that when we set the goal to triple the number of meals we distribute by 2025, and just this past year [2017], we distributed 12.9 million meals, so it's been a 75 percent growth in the past three years because the community's really starting to get behind this cause."

These efforts to fight food insecurity range from the small to large.

It's one schools are even taking steps to address.

For Dankert, he's addressing food insecurity in his community, college students at Western Illinois University-Quad Cities, by creating a pantry.

Dankert said, "Stigma, how do I give food out. There were so many things that I needed to learn, and there weren't a lot of easily accessible resources, so we wanted to be able to provide some of that here. And that education component is going to make a huge difference in these people who are working with food insecurity."

Now, he's hoping to empower more people to take that step.

"When we're taking students and giving them the resources they need to focus on class, to stay in school, to get their degree, for that one student, we're helping to eliminate poverty in their life, and it's so impactful for the community as a whole," Dankert said.

For those working to eliminate food insecurity, they said all the resources are there, they just need to come together.

Miller said, "They're enough food to put an end to hunger in eastern Iowa, western Illinois, we're just throwing it away, and we just need to create a community consensus around the idea of never throwing away that food."

Miller encouraged people to advocate for stores to donate any food not sold off the shelves.

Miller was also in Washington D.C. earlier this week at an Anti-Hunger Policy Conference. He said he was able to advocate for supplemental nutrition programs in the Farm Bill.

Miller said if those programs were cut, food banks wouldn't be able to make up the difference. 

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