For many Americans, one constant in the holiday season is food. We have food at parties, food at the office, and at social events. During this time of the year, food is often so abundant that one of the common complaints that is heard from people is how much weight they have gained. We’ve all heard it.
It is important that we try and remember that many in our country will have limited or no food at this time of the year. And that this time is just like most other times in their lives- one of hunger and need. This is real hunger, not the growling stomach that you may experience between meals. This is the type of hunger where parents worry if they or their children will eat at all that day, or if what they can afford will be enough. It’s the kind of hunger that negatively impacts health.
According to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture state-by-state report on national “food insecurity,” a term that means hunger or susceptibility to it, paints a bleak picture. During the recent recession, many U.S. households suffered job losses, declining incomes, home foreclosures, and diminished net worth. Food security means having dependable access to enough food for active, healthy living-is vulnerable to these financial challenges. In 2009, 14.7 percent of U.S. households (17.4 million) were food insecure, meaning that at some time during the year, they had difficulty providing enough food for all members of their family due to insufficient resources. Although essentially unchanged from 2008 (14.6 percent), food insecurity remains at the highest level observed since food security surveys were initiated in 1995.
According to the national news, food pantries across the country have experienced record high levels of requests for assistance. As a volunteer at a local poverty program that provides food assistance, I have seen the record level requests for assistance first hand. As a result, the food pantry shelves were nearly bare. These feeding agencies can’t do it alone. As you prepare for holiday celebrations, please keep in mind those who are most in need in our communities and donate to a nonprofit agency serving the most vulnerable members of our society. There is so much that needs to be done to help those caught in the vicious cycle of poverty. Together, we can help the poorest women as well as men, and their families, live, learn, earn, survive — and thrive — in the new year and beyond! With an equal amount of conscience, mind, heart, and collective action –we can improve the human condition.
Sources: United States Department of Agriculture/Economic Research Service, Household Food Security in the United States, 2008 and 2009; Cook, John. Feeding America. Child Food Insecurity in the United States: 2006-2008; http://www.share.org; http://www.feedamerica.org; and Food Research and Action Center.
Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art