If you have donated to a local food bank, chances are it started with Feeding America. Feeding America is a United States-based non-profit organization. It is a nationwide network consisting of more than 200 food banks. On average, they feed over 40 million people and 5 billion meals through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies. FarmHer had the pleasure of chatting with their Chief Executive Officer, Claire Babineaux-Fontenot about being a woman who is a leader in this industry and how they are ensuring that everybody eats.
First Hand Hunger
Growing up in a small Lousiana town, Claire’s foundation started in rural America. Her grandparents on both sides were farmers, but that is not where her interest in food insecurity sparked. As a child, her family continued growing. Through adoption and foster care, Claire’s family gained many children who had already faced food insecurity in their lives. Needless to say, there were no picky eaters in the group because all members of the family could see hunger first hand.
After childhood, Claire flourished in opportunities. From two law degrees to working as Walmart’s executive vice president and global treasurer, her background is extraordinary. Then one day, everything changed.
Life Change Leads To New Career
Claire discovered she had cancer.
However, learning this horrible truth gave her a wake-up call. She decided to leave the job she loved at Walmart. Not knowing how much time she may have left, her focus shifted to making an impact on the world.
Her hunt for a non-profit organization started as she wanted to use her talents for good. Her mission is to serve vulnerable communities.
Feeding America Role
That is where she found Feeding America. Today, her role includes many items. She serves as an ambassador for the 2 million volunteers who work to end food insecurity every day at Feeding America and as a spokesperson for Feeding America’s partners. But most importantly, she is helping those battling hunger emerge out of food insecurity.
Hunger Doesn’t Stop for the Global Pandemic
But like everyone else, the global pandemic creates obstacles for Feeding America. The organization completely pivoted by creating low to no contact pickup for members and using bus routes to provide children with the same nutritious meals as before. In rural America, the struggle is even more real.
Rural Food Insecurity
87% of counties with the highest risk of food insecurity in America are rural. And even more alarming, 86% of the counties with children at risk of food insecurity are also rural.
Feeding America expanded its mobile pantry distribution by bringing nutritious foods into the rural communities who need it most. Claire feels privileged to help with these mobile pantries and believes it is the most gratifying part of her role.
But what about the farmers who live in these rural communities?
Claire turns to the experts when learning new things, and that is why Feeding America strives to have relationships with all sizes of farms. She believes farmers are the backbone of food security and work as voices for Feeding America with the USDA. Without farmers, there wouldn’t be food for Feeding America to provide to those in need.
We all eat, and that is why farming will always matter. Everybody Eats is where the stories of food and farming intersect.
These stories told through my FarmHer lens connect us to our food and more importantly, the people behind it.
Everybody Eats is a collection of stories of those who protect our rural communities, who grow our food with extraordinary care, and who provide support, education, and assistance to make sure Everybody Eats.