# 1 in 6 Americans Go Hungry - An Alarming Statistic and What You Can Do to Help

Updated on September 26, 2015

## The Reality of Hunger in America

America. The land of opportunity. But, is it really? How does one justify one of the richest countries in the world having almost 50 million people in a state of hunger? A ratio as high as 1 in 6 Americans (1 in 5 children!) not having enough to eat each and every day is appalling.

Imagine a classroom of children with 24 students. Now Imagine, if you will, that for each classroom of 24, four students will not eat after their school lunchtime. Assuming one elementary school has two classrooms per grade (K-6) it would equal 28 students in just one school who are underfed. That's the reality of hunger in America.

Before I began writing this article, I wondered why those 1 in 6 Americans didn't receive food assistance, such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps). After all, this is America. If one truly can not afford to eat, our government has a program to help them. Further research showed me how it could be possible for someone without means to feed themselves and/or their family to easily be denied access to state benefits.

## Scenario

To give a better understanding on what is meant by being easily denied for benefits I will use the state of New York's SNAP eligibility guidelines.The scenario involves Mary and Susan who live across the hall from each other in an apartment complex. Mary has one child and has a take-home monthly income of \$1500.00(Gross Monthly Income - \$1850.00). Susan has three children and her monthly take-home pay is \$1850.00 (GMI - \$2370)

Both Mary and Susan pay the same amount of rent - \$650.00

We can assume electricity and heat are close to the same - \$250.00

Mary drives a sedan with a monthly car payment of - \$300.00

Susan drives an SUV and her monthly payment is - \$350.00

Both woman have automobile insurance and a home phone - \$120.00

Mary's total monthly household bills - \$1320.00

Susan's total monthly household bills - \$1370.00

After Mary pays her household bills she is left with \$180.00. Mary still needs to keep her sedan in gas for the month to drive back and forth to work. She also needs to purchase non-food items such as bathroom tissue, cleaning products and personal hygiene products. Approximately \$120 more needs to be subtracted from Mary's remaining income. She now has \$60 per month to feed her and her child. Because New York State's SNAP eligibility guidelines for a two-person household requires a gross monthly income of less than \$1705.00, Mary does not qualify for food assistance.

Susan, on the other hand, is left with \$300.00 per month, even after all household bills are paid and \$180.00 per month for gas and non-food items are subtracted. The SNAP guidelines for a four-person household requires a gross income of less than \$2584.00. Susan qualifies for the SNAP program. Susan not only has extra funds remaining from her monthly income, but she could also receive up to \$649.00 in food assistance.

Sure, the state takes into consideration a person's monthly expenses, but not all of them. Rent and heat are generally taken into account. We all know that rent and heat are just two of the many expenses that are incurred on a day to day or month to month basis.

So, even though Susan makes more money than Mary and drives a more expensive vehicle than Mary she qualifies for New York State SNAP simply because she has more children. Do you see the disconnect there?

## What You Can Do to Help

There are many ways to help the hungry. Unless you, yourself, are one of the millions without food, there is no excuse not to help. Food is necessary to sustain life. The next time you're eating that juicy steak or dialing your nearest pizza shop, consider how someone else is going hungry that night. Check out some of these ways to help the hungry. Pick one or more and do it. When you're eating well this evening, instead of feeling guilty for your blessings, feel content that you are helping others who are less fortunate. Feel the sense of happiness knowing that you helped a child go to bed tonight with a full belly.

• When you're filling your shopping cart, buy a few extra canned goods and donate them to your local food pantry or shelter.
• Organize a soup kitchen at your church and feed anyone who needs to be fed.
• If you see a homeless and/or hungry person, don't look the other way. Buy them a cheeseburger. It will only cost \$1 or more and the feeling you will have all day for helping a stranger is priceless.
• At the cash register, when asked if you'd like to add an additional \$1 or more to your food bill to help the hungry, say yes. Even if you've already donated elsewhere.
• Get personal. As well-meaning and wonderful the organizations are who help the hungry, let's be real, not everyone will benefit from those donations. If you have the opportunity to personally help someone (be it a stranger or a relative) take it. Don't look the other way. Be proactive. Send a food basket.
• Volunteer at your local food bank, city mission, food pantry, or soup kitchen. Just a couple of hours per week (or whatever amount of time you can afford) goes a long way in combating this horrible crisis.
• Donate. Such a simple thing to do. Donate your time. Donate your dollars. Donate whatever you can spare. Even purchase a coffee mug - Mugs for Charity gives 50% of profits from the sale of coffee mugs. Give something and get something in return.

There are lots of ways to help the hungry. Use your imagination. Do what you can to help in whatever way works for you.

## Don't Just Give - Teach

I'm sure you have heard the old Chinese proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. I believe this still holds true today. When I watch organizations bring food to the hungry I wonder what will happen when the food is gone. Do they have to wait until more volunteers come back with food before they can fill their stomachs again? It could be a long wait.

Consider giving seeds and planting soil. Give them the opportunity to have food in their backyard every day, not just once in a while. Depending on the geographical location, those in need can plant food all year round. Don't just give them a tomato; give them the ability to plant many tomatoes. Don't just give them a fish; give them a fishing pole.

## What You Can Do if You Need Help

Know that you are not alone. Know that there is help. If you or someone you know is struggling to put food on the table, here's what to do:

• Get to your nearest food pantry. If you're not sure where one is located, you can find one here :http://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank
• Contact your local Department of Social Services and find out if you are eligible to receive SNAP benefits.
• Learn how to stretch your food dollars.
• Take on odd jobs or find ways to earn extra income from home.
• Check out http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/foodbanks/ for a soup kitchen and other resources for food near you.
• Don't have so much pride that you're willing to risk your health or your family's health because you don't want to ask for help. There are people and organizations that want to help. Let them.
• When you do receive help, try to give back and keep the circle of help going. Simply spending a few hours volunteering at your local food shelter is enough to make you feel good about accepting help.
• Stop blaming yourself for failing. Based on the statistics it is this country who has failed you.

## Hunger is Everybody's Problem

Hunger is not just one person or one family's problem. It affects everyone as a whole. Nearly 800 million people on earth do not have enough to eat. The number is astounding. It doesn't have to be that way. It shouldn't be that way.

Your child's best friend might be hungry. Your elderly neighbor might be hungry. It might even affect someone in your own family. Hunger does not always show it's face. Hunger is often hidden. Open your eyes. Know the signs of hunger:

• Lack of energy
• Poor concentration
• Weight loss
• Irritability
• Frequent infections/taking longer to heal

Don't expect a hungry person to always ask for help. Know the signs and offer the help. Share this post on all of your social media sites. If everyone works together and makes a conscious effort, we can end hunger in America and across the world.

## What Will You Do to Help Feed America?

I'd love to hear your comments. Most importantly, I'd love to hear how you will help.

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