The 2020’s will be a banner decade for food equity and community development here on Martha’s Vineyard. While our ability to serve Islanders in need with healthy, wholesome food will undoubtedly increase, it’s my sincere hope that the necessity for the services provided by the Island Food Pantry and other organizations like ours will decrease significantly. So many of the factors that lead families to a lack of food — housing issues, unemployment, underemployment, the rising cost of medical expenses, and the general fraying of the “social safety net”— will need to be addressed and resolved before we as a community can truly overcome the reality of food insecurity. After seeing such a dramatic increase in need at the Food Pantry — our attendance numbers increased 70% in the last half of 2019, my wish for the next decade is that the Island Food Pantry is no longer quite so relevant by 2030!
In the meantime, in the coming years, the Island Food Pantry aims to grow into a new location, serviced by public transportation. This new location substantially increases our reach in the community. Other programs, such as a universal school breakfast and lunch program in Island schools would provide healthy meals to generations of kids, helping families extend their food budgets, eliminating the stigma of free and reduced-price lunches, and improving educational outcomes across the board. A well-timed increase to the minimum wage, tying the figure to the rate of inflation, would mean that our most vulnerable friends and neighbors are better able to support themselves and their families. Access to affordable, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly housing would cause a sea change in reducing the cost of living on the Vineyard, leaving more money for food in family budgets.
But perhaps the most important consequence of these programs, and the relief they would continue to provide through 2030, would be in our recommitment to each other. Food equity as a matter of shared regional pride: We take care of our own here on Martha’s Vineyard. What a wonderful gift, to live in a place that values our shared humanity quite so well!
Kayte Morris is the Executive Director of the Food Pantry of Martha’s Vineyard