Who’s hungry?

by guest blogger Rich Baringer,

We’ve all heard this at one time or another: “Eat your peas! There are starving children in Africa!” It’s cliché, but true—millions of children and adults are going hungry all over the world. We see the pictures of African villages and those in war-torn countries all the time. But what is amazing to me is that in the U.S.—the wealthiest and most technologically advanced country ever to exist—millions go to bed hungry every night.

Recent studies by Feeding America show that as many 1 in 8 Americans don’t have access to enough food. And 1 in 6 children are in the same predicament. Thirty-seven million people are served by Feeding America each year, including 3 million seniors. It also includes about 14 million American kids whose physical, cognitive and behavioral development is being affected because they can’t get the nutrition they need to grow. Fourteen million young Americans live in “food insecure” homes (meaning they don’t know where they will get their next meal).

It’s not just the homeless or unemployed who are going hungry. Only about 12% of those served by Feeding America are homeless and about 31% of the households served have at least one employed adult. Hunger affects people from all races; city and rural areas; all ages. Here in Pennsylvania, the food insecurity rate is 10%; for children, 15.8%.

About 5.7 million Americans get some assistance from food pantries, soup kitchens and the like. And more of those hungry families live in your town than you realize. In Quakertown, for example, the Quakertown Food Pantry, served 15,267 individuals—including almost 2000 seniors and almost 5000 children—in 2010. More astounding is the increase in those served as the economy has gotten worse. In 2006, the number served was 11,105; it rose to 12,028 in 2007, to over 15,000 in ’08 and up to 16,954 in ’09. That’s a jump of over 5800 people in just 4 years. The numbers dropped a bit in 2010. Let’s hope that’s a trend that continues.

At the risk of getting political, how can this be? It’s remarkable that while we as a nation spend so much money on war, stadiums, oil and more, our fellow citizens can’t even buy the basic nutritional necessities. The new Yankee Stadium cost $1 billion to build a couple of years ago. How many hungry NYC citizens could have been fed with that kind of money?

So how can we help? The ways are pretty obvious:

Have fun. Support events like Joyful Noise IV, a music festival on Saturday, June 25 to benefit the Quakertown Food Pantry and other events that contribute to hunger aid locally—and have loads of fun at the same time! (I’ll write more about Joyful Noise soon.) For more info, see our Food Events Calendar.

Donate food and money. The economy is tough on everyone—but especially on local food pantries and food banks. And the toughest time for these charities is right now — donations always go up during the holidays. Few think to contribute during the spring or summer. Buying a few extra cans on your next shopping trip, or picking up some local produce, would help. See this site for a list of local food pantries.

Volunteer. Organizations like these depend on the kindness and giving of volunteers to make things work. You don’t have to do it alone—get your church, neighbors or co-workers involved. Ask anyone who volunteers and you’ll understand the value of helping those in your community who are in need.

Be informed. Check out some of the many websites on the subject:
Hunger Nutrition Coalition of Bucks County foodinbucks.org
Feeding America feedingamerica.org
Pennsylvania Association of Regional Food Banks www.PAfoodbanks.org
Share Our Strength: No Kid Hungry www.strength.org/childhood_hunger

Here in Bucks County, we are surrounded by so much wonderful food. To know that there are thousands around us who can’t enjoy it is hard to swallow. We can make a difference. We need to make a difference.

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