“Food insecurity is defined as a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life. This can be a temporary situation for a household or can last a long time.” ~ Feeding America
As I write this blog post I am at the same time sipping on a hot cup of tea and munching on a crisp apple while also contemplating my culinary choices for a nutritious and mouth watering meal. My well stocked pantry, refrigerator and freezer will provide me with a cornucopia of choices to satisfy my palate and provide my body with the nutrients I need to live an active, healthy life.
I am one of the fortunate and privileged people on this blue/green, one-of-a-kind planet in all the known cosmos to have never experienced one day of food insecurity in my life. I don’t know what it is like to be truly hungry and malnourished. The closest I ever got to that state of affairs was when my jaw was wired shut for three months due to a fractured mandible. Nothing entered my mouth and stomach that couldn’t be sucked through a straw. Not being able to eat what you want when you want it sucks. It’s unpleasant. It’s unhealthy. And it can be deadly.
Throughout the United States, more than 34 million people, including 9 million children, are food insecure (according to the USDA). And here in North Carolina, a state blessed (so far) with a climate favorable to agriculture and a plethora of technological resources that are the envy of much of the planet, we also have the 10th highest rate of food insecurity in the nation (according to Feeding America).
That’s bad news here and now. But worse yet, the climate crisis that humanity has created will only continue to exacerbate those food insecurity numbers here and around the globe in the decades ahead. Projected increases in temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, changes in extreme weather events, and reductions in water availability will all result in reduced agricultural productivity. (Search for “climate change global food security and the U.S. food system” in your favorite web browser for an in depth report).
While national and international political and economic policy decisions are key to combating the global climate crisis, the need for effective local grass roots organizations that provide low or no cost food to supplement nutritional needs for low income neighbors will only grow more critical as food becomes less abundant and more costly. Such ‘safety net’ organizations serve as a tourniquet to reduce the hemorrhaging caused by systemic failures to create a just society where nature’s resources can be sustained and equitably shared by all.
Here in Chatham County North Carolina the organization atop the emergency food chain that seeks to “provide nutritious food to community members facing food insecurity” is known affectionately as CORA (the acronym for Chatham Outreach Alliance). CORA embodies everything exemplary about the parable of the Good Samaritan that teaches and inspires us to love our neighbors as ourselves by providing for basic needs in time of need. While CORA’s lofty vision is “a community without hunger,” it is likely that such a Utopian dream is beyond its outreach given the current realities and future risks. Still, it is a noble and hopeful vision that fuels its mission and exemplifies the values at CORA’s core.
CORA’s Mission Statement declares, “We are dedicated to acquiring and distributing food to Chatham County residents who have a need for community support to keep themselves and their families fed, creating a community without hunger.”
Those stated values read, “We embrace a culture where all individuals are treated with respect and equality, and we are committed to safeguarding their dignity and self-esteem by continuously taking actions that demonstrate genuine care, concern, and support. We operate by following strong ethical and moral standards to ensure that CORA’s mission is achieved with fairness, compassion, and effectiveness.
- Compassion & Respect – recognizing each community member’s innate dignity
- Collaboration & Cooperation – engaging a network of community members, organizations, and partners
- Diversity & Multiculturalism – recognizing the diverse cultural and individual needs in our community
- Education & Prevention – working to understand, prevent, and eradicate the causes of hunger
- Stewardship & Sustainability – being responsible stewards of all of our resources”
CORA has been espousing these values and fulfilling its mission for over three decades. CORA provided food to its first family, two adults and four children back in 1989. They now distribute more than 1 million meals to families across Chatham County. And each year the hill leading to food security keeps getting steeper and slipperier. It is a credit to their talented staff, core of dedicated volunteers and supportive community (governmental and private) that CORA has survived and thrived to become one of the more successful ‘food pantries’ in the state.
Pittsboro Presbyterian Church as a PC(USA) Earth Care Congregation and Matthew 25 Church supports the work of CORA not only by seeking to combat the root causes of the climate crisis, but also by offering monetary and food donations as well as volunteer time and talent. Concern about food insecurity is also demonstrated by partnering with other local congregations and private entities to prepare and distribute frozen meals to neighbors. Such partnerships working along with CORA form a critical portion of the safety net of care and compassion that will be essential as we face the daunting challenges of food insecurity in a rapidly changing climate.
To learn more about CORA and become involved in its mission, visit www.corafoodpantry.org on the web.