When Growing Enough is Not Enough

There’s an old proverb claiming it takes a village to raise a child. It certainly takes a village to feed one. In our global economy, farmers play a central role in helping nourish a growing population, but the job doesn’t stop with them. The process of getting food into homes takes countless others. This form of collaboration—the idea to work across communities, and across oceans, to secure access to food—has fed billions. And while these partnerships evolve, so do the challenges. How can we collaborate now, during this time of extraordinary need, to bring healthy, nutritious food directly to everyone? 

Our food system is vast. It takes incredible coordination to provide farmers with the solutions and support they need to grow their crops—and even more for teams to harvest, process, pack, and distribute the food they grow to communities around the world. In this global network, everyone works together toward the same goals. Farmers and biologists. Engineers and software developers. Retailers and policy advocates. These global thinkers and innovators, together, make up our food system. And, of course, so do you.


Every innovation in this system—every breakthrough in biology or technology—makes food more widely available, affordable and sustainable. Breeding innovations unlock a longer shelf life for fruits and vegetables, reducing food waste. Digital tools optimize delivery routes so produce isn’t lost or spoiled during transportation. 


Despite the incredible leaps in efficiency across agriculture’s supply chain over the last few decades, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many of the ongoing deficiencies in our global food system. Among them, food accessibility remains one of the most important challenges to address. And for a growing number of Americans, the economic consequences of the pandemic are making it even harder to bring food to the dinner table. 



Distanced: How COVID-19 Widened the Hunger Gap

What does it mean to be hungry in America? For those in a city, it often means living and working in close proximity to a surplus of food—food that’s often wasted at a staggering rate. For those facing hunger in rural communities, it often means being surrounded by bountiful farmland that feeds communities around the world, with no access to it. In either scenario, the food right in front of someone might as well be miles away. 


Today, it’s clear hunger is not a matter of food scarcity. There are more than enough calories grown and raised on the world’s farms to feed everyone. Rather, the challenge has been an economic one. 


Which is why, in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the economic impacts of lockdown increased hunger in America. With businesses shuttered and millions of lost jobs, more and more families lack the income to afford food. Coupled with other challenges to the food supply chain, the result is nearly one-in-eight American households not having enough to eat. This economic crisis is particularly difficult for those who already struggled to buy food before the pandemic, especially the millions of food insecure families in the US who rely on free or reduced-price school meals to feed their children


food insecurity trends graph
Source: Feeding America: US Hunger Relief Organization


How do we at Bayer help the newly hungry in America? By working together. By helping our neighbors. By reimagining our food system for the sake of public health and nutrition. This collaborative spirit is the foundation of Bayer Fund, the philanthropic arm of Bayer in the United States. Here, we’re building relationships across communities to develop programming and strategically invest in qualified non-profits who are tackling big challenges. In particular, Bayer Fund is proud to support organizations like Operation Food Search, St. Louis Area Foodbank and The Berkeley Food Network, who are all finding innovative ways to help address hunger and malnutrition. Because in the face of such complex challenges, meaningful partnership is always our best bet. 



Collaboration is Key

There’s no one way to address hunger. Rather, it will take a variety of complementary skills, ideas and approaches coming together to tackle food insecurity from all angles. It’s not just possible—it’s already happening.


“Collaboration is the core of our work,” explains Sara Webber, Executive Director and Co-Founder at the Berkeley Food Network. With partnerships weaving well beyond the San Francisco Bay Area, this organization is literally built on finding ways for farmers, restaurants, supply chains and others to work together in ending hunger. And by finding ways to empower one another, each partner is better able to contribute to the entire community. She elaborates, “the support we received from Bayer Fund has enabled us to start purchasing fresh produce directly from small farmers. In addition to helping us support local agriculture, this also allows us to distribute farm-fresh food to those in need. And whatever we can’t use, we compost and return it to benefit the farmers who are helping us.” 


Collaborations can take shape anywhere, often in places we may not expect. For Judy Coyman, Director of Community Relations at Operation Food Search, working with others is always an opportunity to approach evolving challenges like hunger from a new direction. This is especially the case with their innovative FreshRx program, which works with farmers and others to provide fresh, local food to expectant mothers and qualifying families so they can live healthier, happier and more productive lives. Discover how collaboration is creating systemic change:


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There is incredible power and potential in building new partnerships. This is something Meredith Knopp sees firsthand in her role as the President and CEO of St. Louis Area Foodbank. Today, she’s watching as people across communities are finding new and resourceful ways to collaborate against hunger—such as their School Market Program. This initiative is addressing transportation and social barriers by creating a weekly pop-up ‘market’ at schools where parents and students can conveniently access fresh produce, meat, dairy and other items for free. See how partnership is bringing communities together: 


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It’s Human Nature

Time and again, humanity has proven that we accomplish more when we work together—especially when it comes to feeding a growing world. And although there is much work yet to be done in order to eradicate hunger, the will is there. As Sara Webber explains, “we all want to support our families and our communities, and addressing hunger is a first step in empowering people to do just that.” 

Are you inspired to help eradicate hunger in your community? There are countless ways to get involved, whether it’s adjusting your shopping habits, preventing food waste at home, or supporting your local food bank. To find an organization working to end hunger in the United States, please visit Feeding America

6 min read