Hunger At Home In The U.S.
If you had to choose which single thing to pay for, which would you choose? Shelter, electricity, life-saving prescriptions, or food? Currently, people of all backgrounds and ages are frequently facing this choice. Some college campuses are starting food pantries to feed students who would otherwise go hungry. It is common for these college based food pantries to have empty shelves within hours or days of receiving donations.
To understand and eventually tackle the problem of hunger is in the U.S., we need to see the causes and the diverse groups that it affects. To start, there are 47 million Americans receiving food stamps or SNAP. This is approximately 15% of the U.S. population. Hunger affects millions of Americans, some of whom do not ask for or are refused assistance on the local, state, or federal levels. Those in food insecure households are frequently employed part or full time in one or more jobs. This was the case before the recession and has only worsened since.
Contrary to what some people believe, the homeless are a small percentage of those going hungry but definitely no less of a priority. Going further to dispel some of the myths about hunger, some of the people responsible for food production are actually suffering from hunger. For example, rural hunger affects approximately 3 million households and it is in rural areas that large amounts of American food is produced. Those in rural areas tend to have lower paying jobs and lower education levels are more common. In addition, unemployment and underemployment rates are higher in these areas of the United States.
U.S. Veterans are also battling hunger. Some American veterans are going hungry and are also at risk of homelessness due to recurring "backlogs" that go unattended. Is this truly how United States veterans deserve to be treated? In fact, some of these "backlogs" are allowed to occur repeatedly without intervention or significant improvement to address the needs of our veterans and give them the support they need and the things that are due to them such as the GI bill and others. Other veterans are going hungry due to a lack of employment and/or other personal problems such as substance abuse.
In addition to the homeless, hungry veterans, and hungry rural residents there are many more groups of the U.S. population experiences hunger requiring emergency food assistance such as those living in urban and mountainous areas of the U.S. Also, people from various backgrounds and ages are going hungry in the U.S. In some cases, if parents are going hungry, so are their children. Many Americans are unaware that millions of children here live in food insecure households, yet they are quick to think of hunger as being a problem in a third world country. Many do not think of the children in American cities, suburbs, and in Appalachia, who are living in food insecure households. Some children's health and learning abilities will suffer due to a lack of food.
Some U.S. colleges and universities have opened food pantries to aid hungry students. A fairly large number of college students live at or below the poverty line during their college years despite some appearances or assumptions to the contrary. Iowa State University and UC Davis are just two of a growing list of schools attempting to help hungry students by offering on campus food pantries where students can go and get free food.
Senior citizens are also living in food insecure households with many having to choose between life saving prescriptions, paying utilities, paying rent or a mortgage, or buying food. Some of these citizens are unable to go and pick up emergency food assistance or may be unable or embarrassed to ask. This is a great example of how important it is that families and neighbors be a bit more involved when it comes to seniors, whether they live alone or not and regardless of whether they appear to be healthy or ill.
African Americans and Latinos are 3 times as likely as Caucasians to receive emergency food assistance. According to Foodfirst.org, in 2000 over 16 million Caucasians didn't have enough to eat and 4.5 million more skipped meals or reduced portions.
As you can see, some of the facts about hunger in the U.S. are troublesome, however this doesn't mean that the problem of hunger cannot be reduced or eventually eliminated. "As Bruce Stokes, director of global economic attitudes at Pew Research’s Global Attitudes Project, noted recently, the United States stands out among advanced economies in how many people report having trouble feeding their families. The U.S. has the power and resources to do many things and eradicating hunger is one of them." (PewResearch.org)
Hunger is a larger problem than many people are aware of, affecting as many as 1 in 7 adults and 1 in 5 children. It is within your power as a concerned citizen to do something to help. You can help by volunteering your time randomly or regularly, donating food or money to foodbanks, homeless shelters and food pantries, or educating others about hunger.
If you know or suspect that a family is struggling financially, how about performing a random act of kindness and getting $20 or $25 worth of groceries, leaving it on their doorstep and ringing their bell? It's your choice to stick around or you could leave and be anonymous, which helps those who might be embarrassed accept your gift. You never know, you could make a huge difference and show someone to continue having faith or give them a boost just when they just may need it most.
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