S2: Episode 41 - Susan & Peter

Episode Information

Hunger & Resilience – Episode 41 – Susan and Peter

[Intro Music]

Narrator:  Welcome to Hunger and Resilience, narrative histories about the complexity and experiences of hunger. A traveling exhibition and weekly podcast edited and hosted by Michael Nye, supported by the San Antonio Food Bank, Eric Cooper, executive director. We are grateful for the honesty and eloquence of every voice. Episode 41, Susan and Peter.

Susan:  There’s a huge irony in our country and it is this, it costs a lot of money to eat well, and so $5 can buy a lot at a fast food store, $5 cannot buy very many calories and fresh fruits and vegetables. How do you extend your dollar? Do you say, I am gonna give you broccoli. You can’t do that, so they’re forced to rely on foods that are full of fat, sugar, and salt. I never knew anything about hunger, but when we first met Mickey Wise and saw his program, it was love at first sight. Mickey was genuine, authentic, talented, and with great passion. He had invented a novel idea to collect and distribute fresh fruits and vegetables from wholesalers to charitable organizations. Mickey was actually doing it because he hated waste. Really loathed the idea of all of this edible produce going into a landfill. We of course, don’t like waste, but we really saw this as a public health battle to help fight obesity, to manage diabetes, to deal with cardiovascular illness, cancer, and many other issues. Peter and I committed at that moment to help him. We left that meeting and we looked at each other. No problem. We’ll work on this for six months, sort of part-time. Never, never did we ever think 19 years later this would have become our entire academic and professional career.

To make this work, we had to go city by city by city In each city we had to talk to a variety of partners. We actually made the connections between the food bank and the produce wholesalers went to very many early morning meetings on docks three and four in the morning connecting them, and we had to persuade the food bank and the board that their mission was shifting from just emergency hunger relief to public health intervention. That this was going from just any calories, a good calorie to the importance of quality calories. I think the tipping points really came when two sources of funding stood up and said, Susan and Peter, we believe in your approach. We’re gonna support you. The Sora Foundation gave us seed grants. Kraft Foods supported produce programs for 12 years and contributed almost $30 million to support these programs. When Kraft first called us in, I was quite nervous and when we learned that they had heard of our work and wanted to support it, we’re hoping that no one saw us in the parking lot because we were literally jumping for joy. Having some early quick money bought real things, a refrigerated truck, uh, more freezers or coolers for pantries, an additional driver to do a rural route near the food bank. Pallet jacks, forklifts, I mean really grubby kinds of things that make the program run.

When I hear the word hungry now, I just have multiple, multiple images that flick across my brain of all of the pantries that I’ve been to, all of the people I’ve met, and I think I hunger for this project to really make a difference, and I know it has, but I know that there’s much, much more to do. This country is not healthy and we know that the food is there and I long passionately to help develop more systems that can speed nutritious food to people who desperately need it. That’s what I most long for these days.

[Outro Music]

Host:  Many low-income families cannot afford good nutrition. Fast foods are cheaper than purchasing green beans and carrots and cabbage and broccoli. Susan Evans and Peter Clark were the early advocates connecting food banks with healthy foods. They spent 19 years city by city convincing food banks around the country that good nutrition is at the core of a good quality of life. It really matters. Thank you, Susan and Peter. We are grateful for your wisdom and for your advocacy. Every person, every place is a map to somewhere else. I’m Michael Nye. You may go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcast for portraits and transcripts. Thank you so much for your generous listening.