I detest the phrase "outside of the box"... Maybe not as much as the word "synergy", but close. Macro problems like world hunger need "left-field" ideas as far as I'm concerned, but the more I think about this approach the more advantages I seem to find.
If you look at government assistance programs and you have at least half a heart, you're confronted with a problem. Assistance programs are intended to be "safety-nets" - measures to protect the most vulnerable from hitting points of despair... Homelessness, hunger, shelter, medical, etc. But how do you prevent people from taking advantage of these programs? It's a tough issue, but a cause a HUGE majority of our population would support. The only people I can think of that wouldn't support properly targeting government assistance would be the people who are currently (or simply like the idea) of exploiting it.
As you can probably tell, the issue I'm currently considering is hunger. How do we keep people in our community that need food... fed? Our approach so far has been to provide financial benefits to those people through basic means testing (emphasis on "basic"), but why haven't we considered cutting out the middle man?
From a financial standpoint, tax payers should not be providing profits to food companies for an emergency situation. Additionally, with the weak housing market - there is a surplus of available property in most metropolitan areas.
From a nutrition standpoint, (as with any "people related" problem) there are more needs in economically depressed areas. These are areas that are disproportionately filled w/ fast food establishments. To oversimplify the point - This means more tax-payer funds are directed to McDonald's then Whole Foods.
From an aesthetic standpoint, using an empty lot as farmland is a significant bonus. Look at home values that surround public parks if you need proof on that point.
From a nature standpoint, A wider variety of plants are able to thrive in well tilled soil then grass, concrete, or rubble.
From a community standpoint, This is a project I believe communities could take pride in. Community farms can be a symbolic representation of how much we love "our own".
From a humanitarian standpoint, We would be giving at least a minimal amount of protection to those in need. If our neighbors in need could walk a couple blocks to grab an apple, I think they'd rather do that then sit in the street with a sign. You can ask those people, but I'm pretty sure you'll get that response.
This may sound dumb or naive to some, but I think the worst you could fairly call this concept is simple. Sometimes simple ideas are nothing more, but occasionally those ideas are substantial... important... almost necessary. If we utilized the amount of money we spent on one person's unemployment insurance (which I believe averages $300/week), we could have a healthy budget for a local farm. If the idea works (like I think it would), we could expand funds and put some farm workers on staff. I believe you'd also find a large supply of volunteers. I can tell you that I personally find growing plants (even on my tiny porch) very fulfilling... Soothing even.
The only opposition I could imagine would be people who think this isn't a financially prudent idea. I understand that point, but the commitment would be so minimal. There is no negative impact on the environment if it doesn't work, just let the plants go. If it did work (and that's obviously my feeling), imagine the benefit.
We would be providing healthy food to those who need it with a minimal amount financial commitment both initially and over time. It would take no more supervision then a public park and require only a small amount of work (you could even tie other government programs to a few volunteer hours a week if you wanted to expand on the concept). We can feed our community while minimizing taxpayers exposure to exploitation. It may sound "over the top", but we can save lives and provide a better community for ourselves at the same time. All it requires is some ambition and I think there enough of us out there who would be happy to provide that for a chance to make our world even a bit better.
I'll try to push this idea forward, all I'd ask is that if you agree with this concept that you'd do the same.