Food banks are uniquely positioned to be “hubs” for diverse community food security strategies that allow participants to gain the skills, resources, and social capital, to increase their own food security and become leaders. Currently, food banks are a trusted resource for millions of low-income families through their networks of partner agencies. They are also the leaders in local communities on food access, with established networks of relationships with businesses, agriculture, government agencies, community leaders and citizens. Furthermore, the physical infrastructure of food banks provides assets in warehousing, logistical, and distribution capacities.
Recognizing these advantages, many food banks across the nation have established themselves as leaders in incorporating community food security strategies into their work. Many others have expressed interest in incorporating such strategies in their services but thus far have lacked a forum in which to develop these ideas.
For these reasons, the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona hosted the Closing the Hunger Gap conference in September 2013, to bring this emerging conversation to the forefront. Over 300 people attended from 170 different organizations, including food banks and ally organizations like school districts, health organizations, advocacy groups, academics, and food businesses. The process of bringing this event together was equally, if not more, important as the event itself. Many of these initial conversations led to ideas for educational sessions at the conference, which featured expert panels as well as invited participants to share their expertise. Representatives from 10 leading food banks and ally organizations formed a national Leadership Team to steer an inclusive process which included hundreds of conversations with food bankers in a wide variety of roles all over the United States.
After the 2013 Conference, the Leadership Team continued working together to develop the network’s vision, goals, and strategic priorities. The Oregon Food Bank hosted the Closing the Hunger Gap: Cultivating Food Justice conference in September 2015. This conference brought together more than 500 attendees for a vibrant, diverse, and inspiring event where attendees had ample time to learn new skills, discuss innovative programs, and network with their peers. Northwest Harvest hosted the Closing the Hunger Gap: From Charity to Solidarity conference in September 2017. The 2019 Conference will be announced in 2018.
We envision a time when all people can determine their own futures; when nutritious food is recognized as a human right; and when there is a political will to end hunger and its root causes. We envision ourselves as part of a growing, national network of collaborators and learners that engage with and support movements led by the people most impacted by hunger and poverty.
Closing the Hunger Gap is a network of organizations and individuals working to expand hunger relief efforts beyond food distribution towards strategies that promote social justice and address the root causes of hunger.
- Build and support a grassroots effort of hunger relief organizations to shift from a charity model to a social justice model.
- Build a national presence to promote a collective voice of organizations and their constituents calling for food to be recognized as a human right.
- Support grassroots movements led by the people most impacted by the root causes of poverty and hunger.
Statements of Values
- We are committed to equity and social justice and seek to shift the imbalance of access to resources and opportunities.
- We believe that food is the foundation of relationships, community and culture and that it is essential to the health (physical, spiritual, emotional and mental well-being) of people and the environment.
- We recognize that poverty is not an individual’s failing, but rather a systemic failing of our society and that changes to the system are need to move beyond band-aid fixes to empower individuals and communities to remove barriers.
- We strive to better understand and find appropriate solutions to address the root causes of hunger and poverty.
- We embrace a network and culture that is led by and listens to the people most impacted by injustice, hunger and poverty (justice centered).
- We strive to nurture a community that builds collective power and shared learning.
- We recognize food as a human right, and we will champion this right within communities.
- We believe in honesty and transparency and will act to hold our leadership and each other accountable for honoring our vision and values. We recognize where we are coming from, how we currently operate and are committed to learning, evolving and transforming.
- We seek to create a space that supports members in recognizing and facing uncomfortable truths in undertaking this work.