September is Hunger Action Month and awareness campaigns have been launched nationwide to raise the profile on the serious issue of not just hunger in America, but childhood hunger.
Today, our local food bank Three Square is calling on folks to Go Orange to raise awareness about this pressing issue. They are encouraging folks to wear orange, post photos to social media, turn profiles orange, and more importantly to start talking about and working toward solutions to childhood hunger.
Participants who “Go Orange” can share photos and ideas on social media using hashtags #GoOrange and #HungerAction, and by tagging @ThreeSquareLV. For more information visit http://www.threesquare.org.
According to the Agriculture Department, 16 million children — or 1 in 5 kids — go hungry every day in our country. We can do better. In fact, we must do better.
From the New York Times:
This condition can affect their future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity.
The department also found that close to 50 million Americans were living in “food insecure” households, or ones in which some family members lacked “consistent access throughout the year to adequate food.” And it found that although the figures were unchanged since the economic downturn began in 2008, they were much higher than in the previous decade.
And hunger and food insecurity — when people do not have regular access to food — is a common problem right here in our community, according to Three Square’s 2013 hunger map:
- 16.2 percent – the percentage of the population who is food insecure in the four Southern Nevada counties. That is more than 340,000 people in our community.
- 56.2 million – the number of meals needed each year to close the gap between the need for food and what is currently made available through federal programs and charitable organizations.
- $2.61 – the average price per meal in Southern Nevada, based on new research by The Nielson Company.
- 57 percent — the number of Clark County School District students enrolled in free or reduced cost lunch programs.
Nationally, the problem is growing and represents a startling chasm between the haves and the have-nots. And honestly, what is more heartbreaking than being a have-not when what you don’t have is food? As someone who grew up in a food-insecure household, I can tell you first-hand that the stigma and shame were hard but the growling belly was worse.
- 10.6 million kids who are eligible for free or reduced-price school breakfast do not get it. (Source: Food Research and Action Center, School Breakfast Scorecard)
- 19 million kids get a free or reduced-price school lunch on an average school day. (Source: Food Research and Action Center, School Breakfast Scorecard)
- Five out of six eligible kids do not get free summer meals. (Source: Food Research and Action Center, “Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report”
- 40.3 million people in America got help through SNAP (food stamps) in 2010; half of them (20.1 million) were children. (Source: USDA Food and Nutrition Services)
- 15.5 million children in America live in poverty. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports).
The No Kid Hungry project is promoting a Go Orange day on Sept. 24 to bring additional attention to the 16 million kids who are hungry. There is a contest with scholarships to help child hunger non-profits, too. Check out their site for details.
More importantly, do something. Right now. Even if it’s just $5, find an organization dedicated to helping the hungry and donate or volunteer (or both!). Locally, I support Three Square, which is a wonderful clearinghouse that provides food to many non-profits around the valley, including my church’s all-volunteer God’s Groceries. Another great place to help is to contact local schools — such as Whitney Elementary, which has a 50 percent homeless rate among students’ families — and coordinate drop-offs for kids whose only meals each day come from the free or reduced-cost lunches at school. What happens when they go home? They go hungry.
The problem of hunger and food insecurity is a complex one that deserves attention and long-term strategies to make a difference. But that does little to help the growling bellies in our communities all across America. Kids — and really all people — deserve the dignity and the humanity of help on this most fundamental level. It says something about the character of our nation that we let so many suffer silently, while they sit right next to us.