NPR posed an interesting question as it marked the 50-year anniversary of when President Lyndon Johnson declared a fight against poverty: Did the U.S. win the war on poverty?
The simple answer is: No.
Complex causes and issues surround poverty. But looking at food alone, one important concern, clearly reveals a hazy outlook for our nation’s fight.
Simply accessing food has become a growing concern in recent years as organizations (and awareness, thanks in many ways to Michelle Obama) have highlighted our nation’s food deserts—places where residents have little or no access to a grocery store.
The natural products industry takes too many blows for being a part of the problem rather than a source of solutions. While I must admit too many elitist eaters exist, the industry as a whole excels at being a good neighbor.
Good Food Store in Missoula, Mont., is one amazing example. The nonprofit store last year started a nutrition program dedicated to educating elementary school kids about eating well and provides those in need with healthy foods.
Howard Pollack, the founder and owner of Rainbow Acres in Southern California actually makes stock purchases with giving in mind.
And on a larger scale, the well-loved Vitamin Angels program seems to continually get bigger and better. It recently received its sixth 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, which puts it among a class of less than 6 percent of charities recognized for sound fiscal, accountability and transparency practices.
None of these solve the longer-than-50-year fight against poverty, but every bit makes a dent. And what better place to start than in your own community—that of your residence and of your industry.
A fellow health food store owner shared her insightful thoughts a few years ago in a letter to Natural Foods Merchandiser. In it she made this still-relevant call to action:
I ask that all store owners, no matter how small or large, raise funds for sustainable agriculture to help break the cycle of poverty and hunger. If every store in this country raised something, our industry, on its own, would make a huge dent in the cycle of hunger.
Hunger is but one piece of the poverty puzzle. But it is an important one that deserves our industry’s attention.
I know hundreds of stories about stores and natural products brands doing good exist. Please share yours in the comments below.