Editor’s note: This commentary is by Ron Krupp, who is the author of “The Woodchuck Returns to Gardening.” It originally aired on Vermont Public Radio.
This month, the Vermont Foodbank, together with the Feeding America nationwide network of food banks, will mobilize 50 states in an effort to bring an end to hunger. Hunger Action Month is designed to raise awareness of the fact that 48 million Americans, including 15 million children, are food insecure, which translates into children being hungry and not knowing where their next meal is coming from. The Hunger Action Month 2016 campaign asks people to consider how it must feel to live with an empty stomach, which puts a healthy life and a promising future at risk.
According to the Feeding America study, Hunger in America 2014, nearly half of households served by the Feeding America network include someone who is in either fair or poor health.
In too many instances, parents or guardians are going without food themselves so that their children can eat.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 80,000 people in Vermont are food insecure. However, the Vermont Foodbank serves 153,000 people each year, indicating that hunger and poverty run deeper than the official numbers suggest. As many as one in five kids may not have enough to eat. Thankfully, many Vermont schools provide nutritious meals to students who are low-income during the school year, but it’s a challenge during the summer.
According to John Sayles, Vermont Foodbank CEO, “We believe it’s important that the people we serve have access to enough healthy food to reach their full potential; especially our children, who cannot grow, succeed or learn on an empty stomach.”
Rob Meehan, director of the Chittenden County Emergency Food Shelf, told me that we are seeing families struggling to put food on the table who are using a variety of coping strategies to deal with hunger such as watering down food, purchasing cheap, unhealthy foods or skipping meals to make available food dollars stretch as far as possible. In too many instances, parents or guardians are going without food themselves so that their children can eat.
“I’ve spent many days on the road this past year, visiting food banks, food pantries, and meal programs and meeting people who are facing hunger,” said Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America. “I’ve seen firsthand the anguish that food insecurity and hunger can cause. It is always heartbreaking to meet a mother or father who fears that they will not be able to feed their children. They know that their children cannot reach their full potential if they don’t have enough to eat.”