It takes a lot of us to fight hunger, because hunger is a big and persistent problem that affects many people. I am constantly surprised at the number of people who are hungry here in America. Unfortunately, the great state of Tennessee is no exception. Tennessee has the fourth in highest food insecurity rate in the county, at 17.4%! Right here in Williamson County, we have over 15,000 food insecure neighbors.
Along with an army of people, it takes a united voice to make everyone aware of the needs of others who often are right in our midst, who literally are our neighbors. To facilitate awareness and call us to action, Feeding America, one of our partners in fighting hunger, has declared September National Hunger Action Month.
To heighten my understanding of the depth of this problem, I decided to do a little more research. Here are some sobering facts about hunger in America that I copied from a website called dosomething.org. I have italicized and bolded those stats that hit me the hardest.
- 1 in 6 people in America face hunger.
- The USDA defines food insecurity as, “lack access, at times, to enough food for all household members” (USDA). In 2011, households with children reported a significantly higher food insecurity rate than households without children: 20.6% vs. 12.2%.
- Food insecurity exists in every county in America. In 2013, 17.5 million households were food insecure. More and more people are relying on food banks and pantries.
- 49 million Americans struggle to put food on the table.
- In the US, hunger isn’t caused by a lack of food, but rather the continued prevalence of poverty.
- More than 1 in 5 children is at risk of hunger. Among African-Americans and Latinos, it’s 1 in 3.
- Over 20 million children receive free or reduced-price lunch each school day. Less than half of them get breakfast, and only 10% have access to summer meal sites.
- For every 100 school lunch programs, there are only 87 breakfast sites and just 36 summer food programs.
- 1 in 7 people are enrolled in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Nearly half of them are children.
- 40% of food is thrown out in the US every year, or about $165 billion worth. All of this uneaten food could feed 25 million Americans.
- These 8 states have statistically higher food insecurity rates than the US national average (14.6%): Arkansas (21.2%), Mississippi (21.1%), Texas (18.0%), Tennessee (17.4%), North Carolina (17.3%), Missouri (16.9%), Georgia (16.6%), Ohio (16.0%).
It is heartbreaking for me to see these hunger stats. It is even more heartbreaking to see how many children are hungry. And to make matters worse, Tennessee is number 4 on the list of states with high food insecurity!!!
Distributing food represents nearly 50% of the overall programming of GraceWorks. However, there is still more we can do. In fact, I learned of another thing that we can do through a recent conversation with a social worker from one of our area schools. Although she was extremely grateful for our Fuel Bag program, (light meals and snacks that we provide for hunger risk children over the weekends), she said another need is for these children to have mid-morning snacks during the school day. She spoke of how often these children sit without these snacks while other children are munching away. It is likely these are the same children cited in the stats who didn’t have breakfast!
With your help this is an easy problem to tackle. We can knock hunger out with a one-two punch by expanding our Fuel Bag program by making classroom snack boxes for teachers to use for the children who may go without. These boxes would consist of a variety of healthy snacks, including some of which are gluten-free and nut-free, such as fruit snacks, dried fruit, Gold fish, cheese crackers, snack bars, graham crackers, protein snack bars, etc. This way, no child is sitting in our school system hungry while watching another child eat during the mid-morning snack.
I hope you agree we have to do this. And what better time than Hunger Action Month to take action against hunger by expanding our hunger prevention program! The fact that the teachers, social workers and counselors already come to GraceWorks to pick up the Fuel Bags for weekend meals for the thousands of children who are on the free and reduced lunch program, it is an easy solution to just also hand them a GraceWorks classroom snack box as well.
No one should be hungry in America, in Tennessee, and definitely not in Williamson County, but especially not our children! Your loyal support is what makes me convinced that I can say with confidence, “Our children will not be hungry!” I hope you will help us go the extra mile this month and every month that school is in season.
As you consider joining us in taking action against hunger this month, please give a little extra financially or add some of these snack items listed to your food donation so that we can make the idea of a class room snack box a reality for the sake of our children.
Step aside hunger, ’cause here we come!
Valencia A. Breckenridge, CEO