The Ottumwa Courier


February 26, 2014

Taking aim against hunger


Payne said there are a lot more variables that contribute to whether someone will be food insecure, which is why part of her job will be to remind the coalition that their solutions must be multi-faceted.

Some hungry people are isolated. Some who deserve and qualify for assistance don't know they can get help. Some may be embarrassed to accept help. Others may have sufficient money for groceries, but with no knowledge of how to cook or what's healthy, they end up wasting money eating out three times a day.

And yes, said Johnson and Payne, working out what has to be done, where, with whom and how is going to require some talk before taking action.

"We want to create research-based strategies," said Johnson.

"[Strategies] that pertain to our community," agreed Payne.

Then comes action, they said.

"During our first meeting, we were able to identify [community hunger] problems pretty quickly, but when it came to finding a strategy [to solve problems], that's when the wheels came off," said Payne.

A well-known researcher will be coming to Ottumwa in order to "map" information on a block-by-block basis. The researchers will use existing data, like Census figures and County Health records.

"That data creates a picture," Payne said.

"Then [they] are are going to help us with a strategic action plan," said Johnson.

The picture should allow the coalition to put their resources where they are needed most. It also lets them use the correct resource for that area.

But they want more people to help determine the needs and possible answers. What they want, the two said, is feedback from the community. The consortium can even help resolve transportation or child care needs for those who want to participate in "listening circles."

So how will they know if they've succeeded in decreasing hunger locally?

Payne said they worked together to define what "food security" means in Wapello County.

"Food security is access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle," she said.

— News reporter Mark Newman is on Twitter @couriermark

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