America might be the bread basket of the world, but many Americans are hungry. Many families are coping with food insecurity, which means they are unable to acquire or are uncertain of having enough food to meet their needs because of insufficient money or other resources. The latest report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on household food security paints a sobering picture:
- Almost 15 percent (17.6 million) of U.S. households were food insecure during 2012.
- Of these, 8.8 percent (10.7 million) of households had low food security, which means they must use coping strategies, such as eating less varied diets, participating in federal food assistance programs or relying on emergency food from community food pantries, to meet their food needs.
- In food-insecure households, 5.7 percent (7.0 million) had very low food security. Very low food security means food intake was disrupted and food intake was reduced because of limited resources — typically, for at least several days during 7 months of last year.
- Ten percent of households (3.9 million) were unable to provide adequate nutritious food for their children.
- An estimated 38 percent of households with very low food security included an adult with disability, such as being unable to work.
What is even more sobering is that the prevalence of food insecurity has remained unchanged — and at record levels — since 2007.
This resonates with me. I grew up with depression-era parents who experienced food insecurity. My father told me about growing up in a dirt-floor log cabin without running water. More often than not, their cupboards were bare. I also had a disabled brother who was unable to physically shop for and prepare meals and thus needed to rely on me and others for help. I was a preteen when the “War on Poverty” was declared in 1964 in the U.S.
Many causes contribute to poverty and hunger, including lack of jobs, lack of education, crime, broken families and disability. Federal programs to fight poverty include Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act, as well as food programs including Women, Infants and Children, and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.
One can argue the pros and cons of a top-down government approach to solving hunger, but I don’t want to get into the politics. Instead, I’d like to focus on what we can all to do to fight hunger. Here are a few simple steps you and I can take:
- Know your neighbor. Reach out to those around you who might be in need.
- Donate food whenever you shop. Many grocery stores put out collection bins — as do churches, workplaces and schools.
- Give money to food banks. Even small amounts go a long way.
- Volunteer your time. Sign up to make dinners at homeless shelters or senior centers, or deliver meals on wheels.
- Garden and donate. Give part of your harvest to your local food bank. If you don’t have a garden, volunteer to help with a community plot dedicated to fighting hunger.
When you get beyond just thinking about the problem and begin actually doing something about it you can make a difference. You can start by adding your own suggestions to the list above.
There are many ways to fight hunger — please get involved.