Food insecurity is solvable problem if we choose to

Ever heard of Abraham Maslow? He was an influential psychologist who came up with a theory of how humans can reach their full potentials.

His article titled “A Theory of Human Motivation” appeared in a 1943 edition of “Psychological Review.” In it, Maslow describes an ascending order of needs that must be met for people to become their best selves.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has five levels and takes the shape of a pyramid, with self-actualization at the top, the pinnacle where a person can achieve her or his full potential. Below self-actualization is esteem, which centers on personal respect, self-esteem and so on. Third from the top is love and belonging, a level encompassing intimacy and relationships.

Below that is the level of safety and security, like having a safe place to call home where you feel secure.

The final one, the most basic of Maslow’s needs, is the physiological level, where air, water, warmth and other things are the primary desires.

Maslow admits that some people may not strictly follow the hierarchy order, in that esteem may need to be satisfied before love and belonging, or love may come before security. But, for the most part, the majority of people need their basic physiological needs to be met before they begin thinking about their own security or loving another.

Furthermore, if the basic needs aren’t met, a person won’t have a shot at reaching the pinnacle. Maslow writes: “If all the needs are unsatisfied, and the organism is then dominated by the physiological needs, all other needs may become simply nonexistent or be pushed into the background.”

So why should Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs matter to you? It’s simple: food insecurity.

In this land of plenty, there are still too many people who don’t have enough to eat. Locally, that means children as well.

This country produces and exports a lot of food, but there are far too many who are going hungry, and many others living in squalor or without sufficient clothing.

These most basic of Maslow’s needs are not being met, and unfortunately, that could result in worse outcomes for area children down the road.

Youngsters are used to getting fed at school, but districts across the Upper Peninsula are seeing a similar problem: Some of these kids may not have access to enough food over the weekends.

To address that, various backpack programs have been created to provide those students with take-home food so that they can get some nutrition outside school hours. These are supported by other programs, fundraisers and food pantries, all of which deserve praise for their noble efforts.

As a society, though, we have to ask ourselves: Are we doing enough?

In this country, we often put forth a facade as this “city on a hill,” a shining exemplary example of a fair, just and welcoming civilization where all people can be successful if they just use enough “elbow grease” and “put their backs into it.”

Unfortunately, the reality is in stark contrast to this dream.

A common viewpoint to hold these days is that “If you’re poor, you deserve to be left behind because you’re not trying hard enough.”

How fair is that to the child who goes hungry over the weekend?

We’ve heard stories of kids worried about leaving school for spring break because they might not have enough food at home.

That’s a reality of food insecurity, and it’s here in the U.P., in Michigan and surely other parts of the U.S.

Without food and proper nutrition, will these children ever reach their full potentials? Will their academics suffer because instead of focusing on learning, they’re thinking about how they’re going to eat?

Local groups are making strides toward a fix, helping little by little in what ways they can. But a broader solution is needed, and one we see as being the result of strong political will and leadership that will transcend partisanship.

The country’s food waste is estimated at between 30 and 40 percent of the food supply, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service in 2010 corresponded to about 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food.

Businesses and consumers are throwing away food and money when thousands of people are going hungry. Imagine the lives that would be changed if that waste was put to better use.

We, as the human race, know what should be done. There are solutions to the issue of food insecurity. The real problem is that too many of us are choosing instead to do nothing about it.