7 Jobs in Food Security
According to Feeding America, 42 million Americans, including 13 million children, may experience food insecurity in 2021 — that's a 20% increase from 2019. There are many ways to help out in your community as a volunteer, but what if you want to dedicate your career to promoting food security?
According to Noreen Springstead of grassroots-support organization WhyHunger, you can channel your existing professional expertise into food security jobs. Springstead began working at WhyHunger as an administrative assistant almost 20 years ago. Today she's the nonprofit's executive director.
"Many grassroots organizations are nonprofit businesses," said Springstead. "They need accounting expertise, they need nutritionists. They might benefit from a yoga instructor, a copywriter, or a marketer."
The pandemic has majorly impacted food insecurity globally, and it's made food security jobs even more necessary.
Learning about the jobs related to promoting food security can help you find a fulfilling career that contributes to a cause.
What is food security?
The United Nations' Committee on World Food Security defines food security as having physical and economic access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food that meets one's preferences and needs for an active and healthy life.
Some groups are disproportionately impacted, including single mother households and households below the poverty line, seniors, people with disabilities, and people of color.
What causes food insecurity?
According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021 report, factors that contribute to food insecurity worldwide include:
- Climate change
- Economic downturn
- Structural inequality
According to Springstead, structural inequality underlies food insecurity in the United States.
"One of the driving forces is economic justice. People are working multiple jobs and still waiting on a food line," Springstead said, adding that WhyHunger focuses on health inequities and racism in their work to end hunger.
Jobs in food security
You can use your professional skills and interests to promote food security. Here are some of the ways:
Educate on food insecurity
Large nonprofits, small health centers, and governments hire people to lead education and awareness initiatives related to food security. Depending on your educational background, you might instruct nutrition classes, write curricula, or lead garden-to-table cooking programs.
These initiatives hire people with diverse backgrounds, including:
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for nutritionists and dieticians will grow faster than the national average, by 11% by 2030. Chefs comprise another booming field. Chef and head cook employment is projected to grow by 25% over the next 10 years.
Work in community outreach and support services
In a September 2021 report by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 12.5 million people facing food insecurity couldn't access food services — 85% of them believed they were ineligible. Outreach specialists work in government and nonprofit organizations to help spread awareness about food programs and connect families to resources.
With an advanced degree, you can become a social worker. These roles work with families to help navigate food assistance programs, housing, healthcare, and employment barriers.
Advocate for policy change
When childcare centers and in-person classrooms closed during the pandemic, the children who relied on meals from these institutions went without. According to researchers at Harvard and Georgetown, the pandemic pointed out a fundamental flaw in how we provide for kids experiencing food insecurity. Policy change and advocacy for a better safety net may provide solutions.
Policies and legislation set the standards for governmental nutrition programs, the food sold at corner stores, free kids meals programs, and farmers' and food workers' rights.
Amanda Nigon-Crowley, executive director of agriculture co-op and learning community The Village, encourages people to get curious about food and farm policy in their region.
"People ask, 'Why don't they serve fresh, locally grown food in the school system? It should be easier!' And it should be," she said. "A lot of schools have acreage, but there are current policies that don't allow for that."
You can pursue jobs in food policy. Food security and health equity nonprofit organizations hire roles such as:
- Policy specialists
- Directors of government affairs
- Advocacy managers
Support administrative business function
Let's say you see a need in your community, and you want to be a part of the solution by filling a job in food security. But, you want to switch careers faster than the time it takes to train for a new job. You can use the professional skills you already have to support nonprofits in an administrative function.
Like any business, food security organizations rely on a team that helps them operate. Some of these administrative careers include:
- Careers in finance, navigating tax code and accounting guidelines for nonprofits and ensuring they're financially viable.
- Legal careers to oversee vendor contracts and protect the organization and its staff in the case of a lawsuit.
- Human resources professionals help recruit staff, manage training opportunities for staff, and navigate payroll and benefits.
Grow a grassroots effort
"There's estimated to be about 60,000 agencies helping meet people's food needs," Springstead said. "In addition, there are incredible organizations moving beyond handing out food. They're working in communities to offer job fairs, health screenings, culinary arts, and nutrition education — more holistic services."
- Become a volunteer coordinator. Distribution hubs like food banks rely on donors and volunteers to deliver food and operate a host of other community services. This job could be a good fit for you if you love bringing people together and you're skilled at connecting people's passions to a need in the community.
- Deliver farm-to-table groceries or manage a produce stand at a farmer's market. Research suggests that local food production can help nourish communities during supply chain disruptions caused by pandemics and natural disasters. You can pick up shifts delivering foods from farmers to households or as a cashier at a farmer's market produce stand on behalf of a local grower.
- Work in fundraising. Food banks and farms that give back to the community rely on the support of donors. If you're a writer, you can work or freelance to write grants for nonprofits.
Research food security solutions
With a master's degree in public health or a Ph.D. in health sciences and nutrition, you can contribute to the research on health equities, food security, and best practices to combat hunger.
Grow sustainable food
Extreme drought is wreaking havoc on California and other parts of the West, where much of the nation's food is grown.Because of these weather conditions, Nigon-Crowley predicts growth in careers in sustainable agriculture, particularly in the Midwest. Her organization is searching for the next generation of land stewards.
"Growing food is an entry-level position. Anyone can do it — you just have to be willing to put the time and effort in. And it's a great time to get involved," she said. "There are a lot of grants for young farmers and a lot of grants for sustainable production — anything that impacts climate change."
In fact, the USDA recently announced a $3 billion investment in securing the nation's food supply, including $500 million committed to sustainable water use solutions.
Growers, permaculturists, careers in agriculture, and other plant professionals can help research and design sustainable food systems.
Food assistance programs near you
If you or someone you know needs food, the websites listed below can offer resources:
|A variety of resources near you including pantries, free meals programs, kids meals programs, and advocacy resources.||WhyHunger.org/find-food|
|A Feeding America food bank near you||Feeding America: Local Food Bank Map|
|Free meals for kids||No Kid Hungry|
|Your state's supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) office and see if you qualify for a card to purchase certain groceries||SNAP Directory of Resources|
|Benefits for your infant, young child, or yourself if you're pregnant or postpartum||Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women and Children (WIC)|
|Temporary cash assistance for childcare, medical care, or other necessities||Temporary Assistance for Needing Families (TANF) Map by the Office of Family Assistance|
|Various food benefits and programs available in your state — including programs for students and senior citizens.||USDA Food and Nutrition Service Contact List|
|A phone number you can call or text to get food immediately||
The WhyHunger hotline:
The 211 Network:
Meet the experts
Amanda Nigon-Crowley, garden coordinator and director of The Village, grew up in a Rochester farming family. She is passionate about sustainable agriculture and community health. She also likes hanging out with plants.
Noreen Springstead serves as executive director of WhyHunger — a 45 year-old global organization working in over 30 countries to end hunger and advance the human right to nutritious food, by providing critical resources to support grassroots movements and fuel community solutions rooted in social, environmental, racial and economic justice.
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