So, what does climbing the next mountain peak entail? The Food Bank is creating a new vision for the future through an in-depth strategic planning process, using key learnings from recent history, which will take the organization through 2030.
Our recent climb has helped us learn that populations experience hunger differently, with poor and working-class white Mainers and all communities of color experiencing disproportionately higher rates of hunger. While we will technically close the meal gap at the state level this year, we strive to provide enough nutritious food and reduce rates of hunger across every community in Maine. We will continue working with impacted communities and partners to improve food access for populations that are most impacted by hunger to improve the well-being of all Mainers.
We have also learned that closing the meal gap significantly alleviates suffering and contributes to strengthening financial security for many, but it will not provide the food security for Mainers to rest assured that they will have enough food next week, next month, or next year. The answer to long-term food security goes beyond providing meals. It requires creating financial security in the household budgets of neighbors across the state.
Finally, our climb has reinforced the importance of partnerships—not only with other hunger-relief organizations with which we have worked for decades but with new partners. Organizations led by and serving people of color, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations working on issues adjacent to hunger. Most importantly, we must partner with our neighbors experiencing hunger—they are the experts whose voices we must center. Despite our thought leadership and decades of experience, we cannot end hunger or reduce rates of food insecurity on our own. It will take the efforts and attention of many, but we have a role to play.
As the Food Bank reflects on its past accomplishments, growth, and learning and looks toward the next mountain peak, we are considering what new tools, partners, and expertise are needed for the journey. And it is looking toward its next leader, who will work alongside us as we endeavor to improve food security for all Mainers. Although Kristen will not be leading the next leg of the climb, her leadership leaves an indelible mark on the organization that will continue to inspire a future vision for ending hunger. And we know she will be our partner in spirit for the climb.
Thank you, Kristen, for your dedication to ending hunger in Maine. You are an inspiration to us all.