How Food Festivals Help Fight Hunger In The U.S.

A selection of food at at the ″East vs. West″ event at Feast Portland.

A selection of food at at the "East vs. West" event at Feast Portland.

Emily Joan Greene/Feast Portland

This past September, over 21,000 people attended Feast Portland, an Oregon food festival that featured 131 chefs serving food at 47 events. But even among the seemingly endless food, the event served to highlight the issue of hunger.

For foodie fans getting a chance to get up close to star chefs, as well as being surrounded by a bounty of food throughout a food festival, being reminded of hunger might seem counterintuitive.

“Being part of a food festival and representing the issue of hunger is really something that has pushed us, and challenged us to think carefully about how those two things relate to each other,” Annie Kirschner, executive director at Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon.

“This event is not just celebrating food but it’s also making sure that everyone is able to eat that food,” she adds. “That's really meaningful.”

Feast Portland partnered with Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon and Urban Gleaners, two Oregon-based organizations to donate food as well as profits from the festival. Since 2012, Feast has donated over $520,000 to its charitable partners to help fight hunger.

New York City Wine Food Festival, which kicks off in Manhattan on Oct. 10 and runs through Oct. 13, is another high-profile festival that raises awareness about hunger in the U.S. According to organizers, NYC WFF raises close to $1 million for the Food Bank of New York and the No Kid Hungry national campaign each year. To date, NYC WFF has raised $12.5 million to help the fight against hunger.

For food festival organizers, it makes sense that the same people putting a spotlight on exquisite food are also working to show how many Americans don’t have access to daily meals.

That’s because despite America’s wealth and abundant food supplies, millions go hungry each year. Yet even as people and children go hungry, tons of food each year is wasted. Urban Gleaners, an Oregon-based non-profit estimates that 30% of food globally is wasted. An estimated 52 million tons of food end up in landfills each year; an additional 10 million tons goes to waste at farms, according to Urban Gleaners.

Urban Gleaners, which picked up food from Feast Portland, rescues and distributes 85,000 pounds of food each month, adding up to nearly a million pounds of food each year.

A common mission for food organizations is to raise awareness for childhood hunger.

Over 11 million children live in “food insecure” homes, according to the Dept. of Agriculture. Share Our Strength, the Washington D.C.-based non-profit behind the No Kid Hungry campaign, estimates that one in seven children in the U.S. go hungry. (In New York City, that number is one in five children.) In Oregon, as in other states, food organizations fight to combat childhood hunger via a range of programs in schools and communities.

“People who work in the food industry have a deep passion and connection to feeding people,” Ms. Kirschner says. “That’s why they got into the business.”

“Chefs, in particular. People have trust in them,” she adds. “Having chefs come out and say, ‘This is why I’m in this line of work. This is what hunger has looked like in my family.’”

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This past September, over 21,000 people attended Feast Portland, an Oregon food festival that featured 131 chefs serving food at 47 events. But even among the seemingly endless food, the event served to highlight the issue of hunger.

For foodie fans getting a chance to get up close to star chefs, as well as being surrounded by a bounty of food throughout a food festival, being reminded of hunger might seem counterintuitive.

“Being part of a food festival and representing the issue of hunger is really something that has pushed us, and challenged us to think carefully about how those two things relate to each other,” Annie Kirschner, executive director at Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon.

“This event is not just celebrating food but it’s also making sure that everyone is able to eat that food,” she adds. “That's really meaningful.”

Feast Portland partnered with Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon and Urban Gleaners, two Oregon-based organizations to donate food as well as profits from the festival. Since 2012, Feast has donated over $520,000 to its charitable partners to help fight hunger.

New York City Wine Food Festival, which kicks off in Manhattan on Oct. 10 and runs through Oct. 13, is another high-profile festival that raises awareness about hunger in the U.S. According to organizers, NYC WFF raises close to $1 million for the Food Bank of New York and the No Kid Hungry national campaign each year. To date, NYC WFF has raised $12.5 million to help the fight against hunger.

For food festival organizers, it makes sense that the same people putting a spotlight on exquisite food are also working to show how many Americans don’t have access to daily meals.

That’s because despite America’s wealth and abundant food supplies, millions go hungry each year. Yet even as people and children go hungry, tons of food each year is wasted. Urban Gleaners, an Oregon-based non-profit estimates that 30% of food globally is wasted. An estimated 52 million tons of food end up in landfills each year; an additional 10 million tons goes to waste at farms, according to Urban Gleaners.

Urban Gleaners, which picked up food from Feast Portland, rescues and distributes 85,000 pounds of food each month, adding up to nearly a million pounds of food each year.

A common mission for food organizations is to raise awareness for childhood hunger.

Over 11 million children live in “food insecure” homes, according to the Dept. of Agriculture. Share Our Strength, the Washington D.C.-based non-profit behind the No Kid Hungry campaign, estimates that one in seven children in the U.S. go hungry. (In New York City, that number is one in five children.) In Oregon, as in other states, food organizations fight to combat childhood hunger via a range of programs in schools and communities.

“People who work in the food industry have a deep passion and connection to feeding people,” Ms. Kirschner says. “That’s why they got into the business.”

“Chefs, in particular. People have trust in them,” she adds. “Having chefs come out and say, ‘This is why I’m in this line of work. This is what hunger has looked like in my family.’”

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