A recent report released by Feeding America, which operates a nationwide network of food banks and other programs (such as providing school kids with lunches during the summer), shows that the number of people using food banks and reporting "food insecurity" has increased dramatically.
Here are some findings from the report (I urge you t read more at the link):
- Feeding America is annually providing food to 37 million Americans, including 14 million children. This is an increase of 46 percent over 2006, when we were feeding 25 million Americans, including 9 million children, each year.
- That means one in eight Americans now rely on Feeding America for food and groceries.
- Feeding America's nationwide network of food banks is feeding 1 million more Americans each week than we did in 2006.
- Thirty-six percent of the households we serve have at least one person working.
- More than one-third of client households report having to choose between food and other basic necessities, such as rent, utilities and medical care.
- The number of children the Feeding America network serves has increased by 50 percent since 2006.
After a year-long, bitter, rancorous debate--if you can call it debate, considering the epithets, falsehoods, and accusations being thrown around with abandon--some sort of health care reform has been signed into law. But health begins with nutrition. You can't be healthy if you can't get enough to eat, or if you can't get enough of the proper food to eat. Yet, according to Feeding America's study, one in four children is food insecure. ("Food insecure" is governmentese for not being certain where you'll find your next meal.) Since 2004, the number of children receiving food from Feeding America's food pantries has increased by 50%.
But people of all ages are finding that they have to turn to food pantries and other sources to get enough to eat. I know that food stamp use is at a record high, and this is true for the clients that seek help at food pantries as well (the number of their clients receiving food stamps has increased by 64% since 2006). Feeding America reports that over a third of their client households incude at least one employed adult, but the household income is so low that even the most basic necessities are difficult to afford. Ten per cent of clients are homeless. For all clients, the average monthly income is just $940.
What is wrong with a country that forces people to choose between heat and food, or medical care and food? What does that say about our social policy?
There are a lot of officeholders who don't seem to regard adequate food, shelter, and, yes, health care, to be basic human rights. Just recently several GOP Congress members have claimed that extending unemployment benefits would just discourage people from looking for work--this at a time when there just aren't enough jobs to go around. I suppose feeding children just encourages them to be layabouts who won't take responsibility for getting their own food. Or maybe it creates a bad habit, the habit of eating.
Please consider contributing to Feeding American at the above link, or seek out a local food bank. Money goes farther than donated goods, but any kind of donation is welcomed. If you are planning a garden this year, consider planting extra that can go to a local food pantry--fresh produce is always needed.
And here's something else you can do: ask Congress to increase funding for emergency food assistance, especially for children. Every five years Congress must reauthorize--and, one hopes, improve--government-funded child nutrition programs. Go here to sign the petition asking Congress to increase funding at this crucial time when we've seen such an alarming increase in hunger.