By Audrey Bailey
A crowd of around 35 Loyola students gathered in McCormick Lounge to see Martha Holstein; professor of Ethics and Aging at Loyola, Lane Vail; a research assistant for Loyola’s Center for Urban Environmental Research & Policy (CUERP) and Doug Schenkelberg; Vice President of Advocacy and Outreach, discuss current issues regarding hunger.
The first question, opening the discussion, asked the panelists to elaborate on what hunger looks like in Chicago.
Panelist Schenkelberg pointed out that since 2008, at the beginning of the recession, there has been around a 68 percent increase in the amount of people struggling from food insecurity. According to Schenkelberg, food insecurity is the measure of uncertainty regarding when an individual’s next meal will be.
“Food insecurity isn’t just about individuals who are homeless. It’s about the people who you wouldn’t expect to be food insecure,” Schenkelberg said.
In response, Holstein elaborated on the political implications of this insecurity.
“Food insecurity is both an indicator of inequality and also a cause of further inequality,” Holstein said.
As the discussion furthered, one of the questions posed by Holstein herself examined why in fact it is so difficult to eat well.
According to Holstein, fruits, vegetables and foods with whole grains are more expensive than high fat, caloric foods. In accord, canned foods and frozen meals have a much longer shelf-expectancy than produce. Therefore, it is easier and cheaper to buy the unhealthy option.
However, Holstein stressed the importance of not assuming that these eating habits are in fact, an individual’s fault.
“It’s important to not blame people for eating inadequately,” Holstein said.
Vail was next in line for the microphone and contributed to Holstein’s topics by examining America’s defective agricultural system.
“Our current industrial system does not operate in a sustainable way,” Vail said.
According to Vail, excessive amounts of commodity crops (cheap, high caloric foods) are being cultivated around the nation. These crops are not the most nutritious or environmentally sustainable.
The panel discussion was wrapped up by considering possible ways to help the hunger crisis and spread awareness.
Schenkleberg focused on the possible cuts toward the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps, and emphasized personal backing of this organization.
“People are advocating to make sure those cuts don’t happen,” Schenkleberg said.
Overall, the panelists agreed that educating and spreading awareness is a key step to the prevention of food insecurity.
“We have to keep talking,” Holstein said.
After the discussion came to a close, John Short, 18, a freshman biochemistry major assessed how the topics mentioned personally resonated with him.
Short came to Loyola from the Milton Hershey School for underprivileged youth located in Pennsylvania. According to Short, there was a time during his childhood in which food insecurity was a major priority. A familiar meal, he said, used to be a “mayonnaise sandwich”.
In response to the discussion, Short was able to learn more about America’s hunger situation while also relating to the topics presented.
“It (the discussion) was definitely very interesting. It dealt a lot with what I have experienced,” Short said.