The article on food insecurity by Keith Brown on behalf of the Food Justice Committee in the July/August issue of the Shuttle (“Food Drives Help, But Can’t Fully ‘Strike Out Hunger”) contains a very odd, definitely gratuitous and possibly sexist phrase. In the second paragraph, Brown states, “These charitable organizations, largely staffed by women, are lobbying businesses for donations and conducting food drives throughout the region.”
I fail to see what gender of people staff organizations has to do with food insecurity at any level. What possible role could gender play in procuring the resources necessary to feed the one in five Philadelphians who face food insecurity every day?
- Sara Hertz
Keith Brown’s response:
Sara raises the important question of what gender has to do with food insecurity in Philadelphia. And although I did not have space to unpack that idea in my previous article, it does warrant further discussion.
My colleague and I recently finished analyzing 41 interviews with leaders of the anti-hunger community in Philadelphia. Of that group, 32 were women and nine were men. The staff at these organizations are also disproportionately made up of women.
We found that many leaders of anti-hunger groups simply do not have the time to lobby for progressive political changes when they are confronted with regressive policies such as cutting the SNAP program. We heard from many women who tirelessly work to provide food to people in immediate need, compete for a limited amount of grants and fellowships, and conduct fundraisers to sustain their organizations. This incredibly important work results in a great deal of stress and very little pay.
On the other hand, the city, state, and federal officials who need to respond to the one in five Philadelphians who face food insecurity are disproportionately men. They are overwhelmingly the demographic group who is advocating for regressive policies that would further destroy our social safety net for those most in need.
Instead of ignoring the gender disparities in the anti-hunger community, I think it is something we need to talk about more.