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(CNN) — Food banks are a “blessing in disguise” for people in poverty, but that doesn’t mean they can cure what ails them, according to one organization.
These facilities provide basic staples for those who can’t afford to pay for them, and while these organizations are a lifesaver, they are not a magic bullet.
Unemployment and underemployment, income poverty and hunger should be the main priority, said LeAnne Rouse, a senior organizer for the organization End Hunger Nashville and an advocate for food security and social justice.
More people are hurting than you might think
In the face of constant attacks from the Trump administration, people in poverty are struggling to stay afloat, Rouse said.
One way she sees these struggles is the way food banks reinforce the notion that people in poverty are lazy.
CNN Food Makeover spent time with people who are in poverty to see how they make do with what they have.
“This need for food, this hunger, has very unfortunate social dynamics. It creates very bad perceptions on all sides,” Rouse said. “We live in a society where looking bad or not fulfilling a professional obligation is viewed as a negative,” she said.
If people in poverty lacked access to food, and missed school or work, they would be required to pay for it. These kinds of measures could create a vicious cycle of poverty, Rouse said.
“This is how we get people to have no alternative but to become dependent on these places,” she said.
The problem with food insecurity
People in poverty are more likely to skip meals, go hungry or be at risk of homelessness, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
“Hunger has no borders,” Stephen Kendall, the agency’s executive director, said in a statement. “It affects not only individuals and families in need of a food pantry or meal plan, but all those who live near these facilities, whether they are serving on the food bank board or just pass by daily.”
For those struggling with hunger, education and economic issues are the keys to success, the organization said.
From food to housing, food banks are a source of hope for many
The Women’s Emergency Sheltering Program is in one of Nashville’s poorest neighborhoods. Executive Director Mary Hill has her hands full.
When a mother of three is asked what would it take to get her family out of poverty, she shows a photo of her family’s Thanksgiving feast.
“We should stop addressing hunger and poverty the way we do. We should stop using this as a wedge issue to gain political ground,” she said.
The organization is in many ways like the food banks — helping thousands each month to fight hunger and poverty.
Food banks provide “glue” that makes people’s lives “feel normal,” Hill said.
“I understand there are a lot of folks who think that the food bank isn’t the place to address poverty,” she said. “This is not the place to do that, it is the first place to do that.”
“Our facilities should be for everyone.”
Food banks must break down barriers to help people in poverty
Ann Powell is the president and CEO of local food bank, Community First Coalition.
It’s not enough for food banks to give people enough food — they also have to help them gain their basic needs.
Powell said that helps get people off their bikes, back into school and ready to enter the workforce.
“We all share this responsibility for each other’s welfare. … Whatever somebody’s situation, we all have a responsibility to work together, to not just feed them, but to help them recover,” she said.
Fulfilling the needs of everyone requires a holistic approach, Powell said. That involves training, housing, mental health and drug or alcohol addiction services.
“Everyone deserves the dignity of belonging,” she said.