Smithfield Foods Shares Insights About Hunger in America

By Dennis Pittman, Senior Director of Hunger Relief for Smithfield Foods, Inc.
Feb 26, 2018 2:40 PM ET

Smithfield Foods’ Senior Director of Hunger Relief, Dennis Pittman spoke at the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. and shed some light on a topic not often discussed – food insecurity in rural communities. Dennis shares his insights below:

Over the weekend, I had the honor of speaking on behalf of Smithfield Foods alongside our respected allies in the fight against hunger, Feeding America and the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). What a great opportunity to join together with likeminded organizations who share my company’s passion to eliminate hunger.

My talk centered on Smithfield’s ongoing commitment and greatest responsibility as a food company – to feed people, it’s what we do. We’re working toward fulfilling the company’s social purpose to improve food security and end hunger for the more than 42 million individuals facing hunger each day. And more specifically, I honed in on how we can all work together to serve populations that are disproportionately impacted by hunger – especially those in rural parts of the country.

I’d like to share two key points from my talk:

Misconceptions About Rural Hunger

There are a number of misunderstandings about hunger in general, but even more about hunger in rural areas of our nation. As opposed to urban communities, which have nearby access to more resources, many folks in rural areas find themselves in a “food desert” due to a less dense population. A common and unfortunate assumption in regard to rural, country lifestyles is that individuals working in the agricultural industry are living in an area that is rich in food resources for their consumption. This is not always the case. People who live in rural areas often have less access to food resources, and there are far fewer food banks or pantries in rural areas. This is why our Helping Hungry Homes® initiative makes sure to incorporate rural communities – the populations may be smaller, but the need is generally bigger.

Aligning Existing Infrastructures

Oftentimes, there are multiple organizations working to serve those experiencing hunger in one capacity or another. However, we sometimes see that there is little communication and collaboration among these organizations. There is a tremendous need to create stronger alignment and unity throughout existing hunger-relief infrastructures, at all levels. It is important for service providers in each community to come together, analyze the system as a whole, and identify gaps – where are the holes? What are we lacking in coordination among all parties? How can we work together to bridge these gaps and make an even bigger impact? We are already seeing improvements in coordination thanks to the great work of partners like FRAC, but we must continue to ask ourselves these questions in order to truly address the issue of hunger.

Smithfield is privileged to work with partners like Feeding America and FRAC, who share our drive to support the vitality of communities across the country. Together, we hope to inspire others to unite to improve food security and end hunger – in rural communities and beyond.