Applying a Racial Equity Lens to End Hunger

February 21, 2019
Reforming our nation's criminal justice system is critical to ending hunger and poverty in the United States.  Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

Bread for the World Institute

Applying a Racial Equity Lens to End Hunger

Racial inequity is a root cause of hunger

Ending hunger in a lasting, sustainable way requires identifying and resolving its root causes. While hunger and poverty rates have declined nationwide, people of color consistently have far higher rates of hunger and poverty than whites. This is due, in large part, to the impacts of structural racism.

Applying a racial equity lens—a concept and practice that focuses on achieving equality for people of color—can help respond to structural racism and its consequences. This will not only reduce hunger and poverty among communities of color, but also move the United States closer to its national goal of ending hunger by 2030.

Since the simulation emphasizes the importance of racial equity, it can be a helpful companion tool for churches, organizations, agencies, schools, and communities that have begun working on race and want to learn more about the role that public policy has had, over time, in creating structural divides based on race.

How to achieve racial equity

Racial equity requires supporting people and communities of color with targeted investments that respond to the problems caused by structural racism, historical trauma, and current discrimination.

Creating equitable opportunities will lead to equal outcomes among racial and ethnic groups in the United States. People of color will be no more likely to experience hunger or poverty than whites. Ultimately, achieving racial equity will result in all U.S. residents will have optimal nutrition and health outcomes, regardless of race or ethnicity.

To understand how U.S. policies established structures of racial inequity that make people of color more likely to experience hunger and to learn more about the causes of today’s racial hunger, income, and wealth divides, please participate in the Racial Wealth Gap Learning Simulation. Dismantling these structures and applying a racial equity lens to current and future policies will move our country closer to racial equity.

How to apply a racial equity lens to anti-hunger policies and programs

Bread for the World Institute developed this methodology and offers it as offered as a possible pathway for other organizations, policymakers, and implementing agencies to use in developing a racial equity lens for their work, whether inside or outside the nutrition field. Our hope is to build on this method for future projects.

Achieving racial equity means that all people, regardless of race, have fair opportunities to enjoy equality. To ensure that the methodology contributed to this outcome, methods put the needs of communities of color at the center of the analysis.

The process was divided into two steps: first, closing divides based on race so that programs achieve equal outcomes for participants of all races; and second, ensuring that communities of color reach optimal outcomes, in our case, around nutrition. Both steps are integral to realizing racial equality.

The five stages used to apply a racial equity lens are:

Stage 1: Do not assume that the program or policy did not already apply an equity lens

Stage 2: Analyze the outcomes of each racial and ethnic groups.

Stage 3. Analyze why and how the outcomes of each racial and ethnic group were different.

Stage 4: Use a racial equity approach to ensure that experts of color are equitably engaged in leading this project and shaping the narrative.

Stage 5: Consult with people doing this work.

For more information on what each stage entailed, as well as a detailed list of questions that were asked within each stage, please review the "Working Methodology for Applying a Racial Equity Lens to Policies."

Policies and programs we have applied a racial equity lens to

Ending hunger requires a wholistic, comprehensive approach to all policies that support or detract from an individual or household’s ability to become financial secure for the present and future. This includes policies and programs within and outside the field of nutrition. Some examples of key topics outside nutrition are labor policy, housing policy, and health care. Bread for the World Institute plans to apply a racial equity lens to additional policies and programs. The following are sample recommendations from racial equity analysis of federal nutrition programs.

SNAP—The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Recommendations include: (1) Increase SNAP participants’ access to healthy foods, to include developing solutions to eliminate food deserts, a reality communities of color are more likely to experience; (2) Increase monthly SNAP benefits and target households with the fewest assets since households of color suffer the most from the racial wealth divide; (3) Strengthen options designed to make it easier for participants to access SNAP, such as online, phone, and in-person methods of applying for benefits and recertifying for continued participation; (4) Support efforts to ensure that SNAP employees racially and ethnically reflect the demographics of the communities they serve.

WIC—The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children

Recommendations include: (1) Increase funding for targeted support to initiatives aimed at eliminating racial disparities in health outcomes; (2) Increase funding for targeted, culturally appropriate support to efforts to reduce maternal/infant mortality among women and infants of color; (3) Undertake baseline assessments and provide training to increase the cultural humility, cultural competence, and accountability of frontline WIC staff; and (4) Create and implement a process that enables current and former WIC recipients to participate in program design, implementation, and evaluation.

CNP—Child Nutrition Programs

Recommendations include: (1) Identify and implement ways for school meals to help reduce nutritional deficiencies that are more common among children of color; (2) Expand the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to all schools in high-poverty areas, including middle and high schools (3) Increase financial support to schools and summer meal sites in areas of concentrated poverty to fund kitchen equipment, kitchen staffing costs, and initial summer start-up fees and (4) Provide training for school staff on culturally sensitive and competent approaches to address the nutritional deficiencies that students of color face at higher rates.