The Mindlink Memo


Food Banks and Globalization: Speaking the Language of Hunger

Poverty—a word difficult to define. What is poverty? Who is considered poor? For how long is a person considered poor? Some argue that poverty is a temporary state, while others would take it a step further and define it as a label that defines the whole trajectory of a person’s life. And while the debate can take contrasting positions and lead to different conclusions, most agree that food insecurity is an element that reflects and affects poverty. To combat food insecurity, food banks must be able to reach the poor wherever they are.  Understanding the relationship between food banks and globalization can increase the chances of helping migrant communities come out of poverty. 

Reasons for Food Insecurity

Food banks must be able to react to economic changes. Indeed, the recession led to a large growth in people attending to food banks. Many food pantries saw their attendance multiply. For example, the Christ Church, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, saw a tenfold increase in monthly attendance from 2007 to 2009(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2951938/).

Besides economic downturns, a second developing and phenomenon also requires foodbanks to adapt: migration.

Globalization has encouraged the people from other countries to seek economic opportunities. In 2010, the Center for Immigration Studies estimated that the United States had 40 million immigrants (https://cis.org/Immigrants-United-States-2010). Of this group, one in four are in poverty.

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Unique Challenges of Migrants

Migration is  important to food banks because it creates several challenges that must be addressed. As previously mentioned, a quarter of migrants are considered poor. These migrants would increase the attendance to food banks.

Food Customs

The challenge arises when migrants wish to combine the available food stuffs with their cultural culinary coustoms.

To support their transition, food pantries find they are charged with educating the migrant community on food preparation. This entails acquiring human capital   First, migrants bring with them their cultural identity, including culinary practices. But in the new country, their culinary heritage begins to shape under a different social environment. Food stuffs they enjoyed in their home country may not be as readily available in the host country. In this situation, food banks are charged with a educating migrants on creating a meal plan and consuming the available food stuffs.

Language Barrier

This brings a second reasons that help some adapt more readily, others preserve as many of their traits as possible, including their language.  The ability to communicate how to access food bank services can make a difference for migrants working to overcome poverty. Quality language access, including translation and interpretation,  can make the difference.

That’s why food banks are so important to combat poverty. In American, poverty can be linked to an monetary problem. Most people can relate in one way or another to the economical pressure the 2009 recession placed on families. Having access to a food supply means that family providers can spend more time looking for work instead of food. 

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