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UW-EXTENSION: Film to explore food security in rural Wisconsin

UW-EXTENSION: Film to explore food security in rural Wisconsin

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A new documentary film tells the story of hunger in rural Wisconsin during the 12-month period of March of 2020-March of 2021 through the eyes and voices of five directors of rural food pantries/food banks.

The Sharing Center’s Executive Director, Sharon Pomaville, is highlighted in “What We’re Hungry For: How Food Pantries Fed Rural Wisconsin During the Pandemic.”

We see the ways that local food pantries and their communities first responded to the sudden surge in demand, and the ebbs and flows thereafter.

There’s also an examination of how meeting hunger and food insecurity during the pandemic really illuminates longstanding problems in America and shows how relying on charity will never end hunger.

The need for local innovations, systemic change, and above all, how reframing food insecurity from “feeding America” to “nourishing America” is essential.

Terms and definitions

What is meant by the terms of food insecurity versus hunger?

Even if we have never experienced uncertainty about where our next meal is coming from, we all understand hunger — it’s how we feel when we need to eat.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food security as “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.”

Low food security includes “reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet with little or no indication of reduced food intake,” while very low food security includes “multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.”

How can communities reduce food insecurity? (It’s not insurmountable)

The components of systems supporting food security are economic security, emergency food networks, federal food programs, and accessible/affordable retail food outlets.

1. Economic security

It is increasingly important that local leaders advance initiatives that bring family-sustaining employment opportunities to communities, champion appropriate public transportation options, advance efforts to bring affordable housing projects to bear, and sustain funding for accessible health care, among other pursuits.

2. A strong emergency food network

Food banks, pantries, meal programs and other sources of emergency food are a critical backstop when households run short on food. For some households, food pantries serve a short-term need during an emergency. For others, they are a vital longer-term resource.

3. Robust federal food and nutrition programs

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as FoodShare in Wisconsin), school meal programs, summer meal programs, the Women Infant Children (WIC) program, and senior meal programs, as federally funded programs that help keep food on the table for Wisconsin households, are an absolutely crucial component of food security. These federal programs all help stabilize food security by providing routine, predictable access to food even as income and expenses fluctuate.

4. A vibrant, accessible, and affordable food system

Food security depends, finally, on a vibrant food system, one that provides seamless access to affordable and healthy food through a diverse and economically sound network of producers, distributors, and retail outlets.

Where to catch the film?

Cassie Culver, Safe Harbor Humane Society employee, accepts donations from Daisy Girl Scouts who raised money for the shelter by selling lemonade last Saturday.

The film will be released publicly in October and shown locally at a variety of locations, but readers can view the film’s trailer and learn more information on the website of the Kenosha County Food Bank, at

Amy Greil is community development educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension in Kenosha County.


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