Thursday Apr 27, 2023

Expertise in the Field: Blue Ridge Area Food Bank

This week on SHECP Talks we interview Tyler Herman, Director of Partner Engagement, and Robin Swecker, relationship manager, from the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank (BRAFB). They discuss some of the challenges that BRAFB and other organizations face and how they use “people first language” to fight these difficulties.


Herman says that, when picturing food insecurity, the public often picture people missing meals or starving. While that type of food insecurity is devastating it is rare in the United States. Instead, people are often able to access cheap, unhealthy food through chain retailers. Herman discusses why it’s important to shift language from food insecurity to nutritional insecurity to combat false perceptions.


Our guests also discuss some of the stigma associated with getting food from a pantry or other similar organization. By utilizing “people first” language, this stigma is broken down. Many people, especially from older generations, have been paying into the system their whole lives. People first language ensures that these people can maintain their sense of pride while taking advantage of the resources available for them.


Finally, Herman concludes the discussion by explaining why people first language is critical to BRAFB’s mission. “When we start labelling groups or labelling people, we don’t see them for who they are as individuals, what their unique strengths, assets are, what they bring to the table,” says Herman. “Yes, it’s easier for our brain to create blankets and blanket language, but in that we don’t see the individual. Our solutions have also become blanket approaches. We need to shift to an equity lens, meeting that individual where they are… to actually get at the solutions we were trying to get at.”


For further information:

The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank serves 25 counties throughout Virginia in urban and rural communities. Their website can be found here.

The healthy eating guidelines from the supporting wellness pantries can be found here.

Feeding America


Last November, SHECP hosted a Springboard series event to discuss how the language surrounding poverty influences and complicates our daily work and is addressed in various fields of study. Click here to watch the recording and learn more about the panelists. This podcast extends this discussion from the classroom to discussion happening with community partners and individuals these partners are hoping to reach.

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