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article imageOp-Ed: Food Insecurity — DiY solutions from rainy day preppers

By Victoria N. Alexander     Mar 19, 2015 in Lifestyle
"Food Security" is a new and well-funded political industry, whose objective is to assess the ability of low-income families to purchase food and/or to find wholesome food to purchase. But what happens in a crisis when trucks can’t deliver?
Twelve hours before hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, the aisles of every store within a hundred mile radius of New York City looked like they’d been looted. The sobering fact is that our centralized agriculture system makes us all very vulnerable to food shortages. Any natural or unnatural disaster or serious economic downturn could disable a food supply system that depends heavily on trucking. Real food security can only be achieved by local, decentralized farms and gardens. It was kitchen gardens, not soup kitchens, that kept people from starving during the Great Depression.
The concern for food security isn’t limited to doomsday preppers who, motivated by imagined horrors, stockpile 10 years' worth of dried beans, Snickers bars, and bullets in their basements. Food security is a real concern now for ordinary people with limited budgets — rainy day preppers — who want healthy food for their families.
In 2007 the percentage of households in the U.S. without enough resources to put food on the table jumped from 11 percent to 14.6 percent and remains above 14 percent today. A United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report notes that some of the most food insecure households are found in rural communities where, one might imagine, farms can be found. However, most farms are growing government subsidized soy or corn for cattle feed, ethanol, and high fructose corn syrup. In these areas the distance to good grocery stores with fresh produce is sometimes great. This makes households in farmland some of the most “food insecure” in the nation.
While the USDA is attacking the food insecurity problem by conducting surveys and reporting the obvious (low income workers are most affected), Monsanto is "engag[ing] in the food security conversation, and collaborating with leaders, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and U.S. Agency for International Development" to increase industrialized agriculture in the US and around the world, according to their website.
Taking an entirely different approach, DiY political change advocates are teaching people to grow their own food in rooftop gardens or kitchen gardens. Kitchen Gardens International (KGI) is a nonprofit community with over 30,000 members who grow their own food and help others to do the same. They provide on-line garden planners and helpful advice for beginners. Gardening is not easy. It takes skill and knowledge. We've all but lost the wisdom about soil conditions and pest control that our grandparents and great-grandparents knew well.
World War II poster
World War II poster
During World Wars I & II, one third of U.S. produce was grown in home "victory gardens."
Home vegetable gardens all but disappeared in the U.S. between 1970 and 1990. The oldest seed house in America, D. Landreth Seed Company, established in 1784, was near bankruptcy a few years ago. But the heirloom seed company has made a dramatic comeback, thanks to the growing ranks of rainy day preppers. D. Landreth now has a new online catalog featuring classic seeds for the kitchen garden. Home gardening in America has increased by 200 percent since 2008. Thirty-five percent of Americans now grow some vegetables themselves. Unfortunately the number of households gardening with incomes under $35,000 rose only 38 percent from 2008.
Families don’t have own a lot of land or farm machinery to grow enough healthy vegetables and fruit. A backyard or rooftop garden can yield enough green beans, beets, collards, cabbage, carrots, squash, and asparagus to get a family of three or four through the winter. Even in the American Northeast, where the growing season is relatively short, families can eat fresh produce out of their gardens May through December.
Egg-laying chickens help too. Keeping chickens is even legal in most cities. With a small backyard and enough room to browse, chickens can get by on compost and insects and will provide a free high-protein package every day. Their droppings can be composted to make good fertilizer for vegetable plants.
Those who don't have an area to garden can support small farm co-operative markets. Urbanites can DuckDuckGo search “community supported agriculture” to find a group in your area, like these in Brooklyn, Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston. Farmer’s Markets often run year-round, providing an abundance of all kinds of good foods April through December and grass-fed meats, root vegetables, and hothouse greens in the coldest months of winter.
To keep the harvest for the winter, preppers can buy a USA-made pressure canner from the All-American Pressure Canning Company and store their produce in the basement or pantry. The National Center for Home Food Preservation provides detailed instructions on safe canning methods. One can also freeze many vegetables and fruits and/or can store fresh root vegetables, apples, pumpkins and butternut squash for many months in a cool moist place.
Raising your own food is truly satisfying. It’s a good feeling to know that if hard times do come, you will be able to feed your family with delicious and healthy food, and you won’t have to depend on government handouts, which will barely cover the cost of cheap processed food.
So don’t wait for the government to understand the food insecurity problem. Don't bother signing another petition against Monsanto. Instead, support a local farmer or buy some heirloom seeds and a shovel.
Follow Victoria N. Alexander so you don’t miss an article in her DiY political change series. Alexander is the author of Locus Amoenus, a post-9/11 political-satire novel with a DiY hero.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Food security, Food insecurity, grow you own, Rooftop gardens, Community food cooperative programme
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