How do you put real, but often hidden,
issues like HUNGER on the map?

Click triangles to explore the story of a community collaboration

Partner with people who care

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for
In the fall of 2009, a community-based organization that wanted its next round of program planning to be rooted in the assets and needs of the city, approached several partners to support its application for a grant to conduct a community food assessment.
   The grant was not awarded. But the partners, including a local college geared up to offer students’ practical learning in research methods, still wanted to support an effort to learn more about food insecurity. So this community collaboration began to meet in February 2010. And when the opportunity arose to apply for two years of funding for assessment and planning toward a hunger-free community, there was a base of active, committed people, ready to make a bigger splash.
   In March 2011, Poughkeepsie was one of 10 communities across the country to be awarded this grant.

Learn about what’s going on

A staggering 1 in 4 households is food insecure in Poughkeepsie – why?
How do residents access food in the City of Poughkeepsie? What informs our decisions? What constrains our choices? What is the food security situation, and what are the root causes of it? Fieldwork, interviews, archival research, and secondary data analysis to assess distribution, infrastructure, and institutional influences; 7 focus group interviews with population segments to contextualize their concerns; and the first of its kind statistically significant random sample survey of 357 households taught us many things.
   Of great interest, food insecurity is more closely related to lack of resources and mobility than to someone’s food values or knowledge of nutrition, no matter what their level of income is. In other words, residents of all income levels care about what they eat. Of great and sobering importance, there is a high level of food insecurity in Poughkeepsie, meaning that people don’t have access to enough nutritious food. Specifically, 26.8% of households are food insecure, a rate higher than for the US overall.
   With more than one out of every four households facing food insecurity, and one out of every ten facing hunger, there is a lot of work to be done.

Tap into visions for change

Having a sense of possibility is an essential starting point
How could we imagine a hunger-free community? Are there other places that have dared to consider, and tried to work toward, this moral imperative? Could we really consider such a thing in Poughkeepsie? We set out to create a plan for a hunger-free city. Not the kind of plan that collects dust on a shelf, but a living action plan that mobilizes participation across the community.
   To kick off 20 different community food forums facilitated in partnership with a wide variety of organizations and individuals, we showed a video highlighting right to food efforts in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and other innovative projects, and Poughkeepsie’s assets.
   With minds set toward potential, the key question was: What resources do we have and how can we use them to make our city more just and vibrant through food?
   And the ideas flowed…

Plan with the community

Result = ideas + relationships + energy
Residents’ ideas for change were the foundation of a city-wide action planning forum in June 2012. At the forum, participants honed ideas into prioritized projects. Our community’s connectedness and energy was evident as people joined working groups to implement projects. We now had our plan for a hunger-free community, the living action plan (and replicable process) of a mobilized community ready to make change.

Act together... and repeat

Mobile market launched, news distributed, policy change advocated for by people who care

  • What about a tangible, visible response to what we learned about the mobility and affordability challenges to accessing fresh produce in our city? Enter the Mobile Food Working Group, volunteers who worked tirelessly to plan and resource the 2015 launch of the Poughkeepsie Plenty Fresh Market – powered by Dutchess Outreach – bringing a vegetable and fruit farmers’ market on wheels to Poughkeepsie’s underserved neighborhoods.
  • Many people were involved Poughkeepsie Plenty. For those who weren’t, how could we share our community’s journey in a concise and compelling way, with an invitation to understand food insecurity and consider how to address it? 2,500 copies of the Food Equality newspaper were printed, distributed at events, and discussed with groups.
  • Circling back to that hard question about the root causes food insecurity, what role could local government policy play in bringing about change? The mayoral and common council primaries and elections of 2015 provided the opportunity to continue working with partners to raise awareness of effective policy responses to the often hidden issue of food insecurity through candidates’ surveys [All, Mayoral, Council], forums and meetings.

How can you help?

What shape could this work take next?
The coordinators of this grassroots effort took stock of our capacity and decided it was time to shift gears in 2016. The Poughkeepsie Plenty Fresh Market – powered by Dutchess Outreach – is highlighted on Facebook alongside other events and approaches focused on food justice. The unique resources Poughkeepsie Plenty has generated – including pioneering research, participatory planning processes and the Food Equality Newspaper – are available on this page.
   From 2010-2016 our community working together accomplished a great deal, and our learning never stopped. With increasing clarity, our understanding grew that the key factor causing food insecurity in our city is poverty. We can imagine our community using the power of story sharing to shift our perceptions of poverty, increase our sense of how we all need each other, hear more voices affected by poverty, see the systems that produce poverty more clearly and, ultimately, become more effective in pressing for policy change and undertaking other collective action to end poverty.
   Find other people who care on Facebook!