Each year, the week before Thanksgiving is designated Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week with the intention to educate the public, draw attention to the problem of poverty, and build up the base of volunteers and supporters for local anti-poverty agencies.
First held in 1975 at Villanova University, it is estimated that more than 700 colleges, high schools and community groups across the country will come together during this week to raise awareness about the pressing issues of hunger and homelessness.
Addressing food and nutrition security is a top priority at the USDA, whose nutrition programs are the most far-reaching tools available to ensure all Americans have access to healthy, affordable food. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) works to ensure a safe, nutritious and secure food supply while also developing, delivering and disseminating evidence-based nutrition education and promotion to prevent chronic diseases, improve health and prioritize nutrition security. NIFA invests more than $129 million in research, education, Extension and innovation to advance USDA’s goal to tackle food and nutrition insecurity.
NIFA supports projects across the nation to address food security and other issues faced by our most vulnerable populations. Examples include the following.
- North Coast Opportunities, Inc., in Ukiah, California, is launching the Better Food, Better Living Project, which will bring internal programs and community partners together to increase the current and long-term food security and self-reliance of vulnerable, high-need adults and families who have experienced homelessness or are precariously housed. The project will improve participant health by increasing their access to healthy food while they gain nutritional knowledge, cooking and gardening skills, and the capacity to live productive, independent lives.
- The University of Connecticut hosts the Shelter from the Storm program, providing preparedness education to vulnerable populations in Connecticut. Emergency management personnel have identified people who are experiencing housing insecurity as among the most vulnerable populations in severe weather. The project is providing educational materials designed to prepare people experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity to increase their ability to be severe weather resilient. Information is distributed through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and libraries.
- The Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center provides agricultural training to incarcerated, adjudicated and homeless youths at three sites in Louisiana. The project is developing a garden program and therapeutic horticulture experience, promoting healthy lifestyles through nutrition education, and providing interpersonal and professional work skills for career opportunities and family strengthening techniques.
Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness.
Top image: Left image of hands serving a bowl of food. Right image of two hands shaking. Images courtesy of Adobe Stock.