Although I bleed green and white (thanks to Michigan State football), my favorite color in September is orange. And it’s not just because my oldest daughter is a Syracuse University incoming freshman. Orange is the official color of Hunger Action Month. It’s also my favorite fruit, after blueberries, but enough fun and games.
Hunger Action Month is an annual campaign of Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks. A dirty little secret in the United States is that millions of fellow citizens afflicted with hunger. What’s worse, you don’t have to travel to some remote place in the country to find it; it’s here in town. Maybe next door. Maybe you.
It’s ironic that in a place (I’m talking America) currently struggling with an obesity epidemic, there are also people who don’t know where their next meal will come from. Sometimes hunger and obesity go hand in hand. Why? In a word, poverty.
According to the Food Bank of South Central Michigan, which serves an eight–county area, 14 percent of all people in its service area suffer food insecurity. That is, they are uncertain from where their next meal will come (never mind whether it’s fresh and nutritional).
What’s worse, among children, that number rises to more than 20 percent – that’s one in five kids. The stats are even lower for Calhoun County residents. And we wonder why some kids have such a hard time focusing on classwork; many come to school hungry.
Ever meet a hungry person? Chances are you have or will do so today, even though you may not be aware of it. This assumes you move in mainstream society. The problem is that a lot of naysayers – those who claim food that any person can access fresh nutritious food if they want it – tend to live in a vacuum. More specifically, the ones with their heads in the sand choose to move in ways that keep them far and away from the people in need.
Thank goodness for the aforementioned Food Bank, along with Sprout Urban Farms, Gardening 365 at Leila Arboretum, God’s Kitchen and a myriad of other food agencies and services around the community. There’s also Good Food Battle Creek (GFBC), a network of individuals and organizations that promote healthy food choices and access to good food for all people. But it’s not enough. As GFBC coordinator, we believe our local food system is broken and are working to help repair it.
There’s also Double Up Food Bucks from Ann Arbor-based Fair Food Network. Germinating from a small pilot program in Detroit, Double Up Food Bucks has blossomed into a statewide success story. In 2013 alone it’s helped stretch the food dollars of 200,000 low-income families and supported more than 1,000 farmers in the process. As a bonus, it’s produced more than a $5 million effect on Michigan’s economy.
Double Up Food Bucks is growing locally. Currently the program is available through Nov. 30 at Family Fare (45 E. Columbia Ave.), and through Oct. 31 at both Battle Creek and Springfield farmers markets as well as the Fresh on Wheels program offered by Sprout Urban Farms.
Recently, the Food Bank hosted a meeting to unveil a report: Hunger in America 2014. Every four years, Feeding America coordinates the national Hunger in America Study, which ties in to the state and local Hunger in America studies.
A key takeaway from the meeting is the need to secure funding for expansion of fresh food distribution at food banks. But providing fresh food alone isn’t enough. What’s also needed is nutrition education and support. In today’s fast food society, raw food preparation is a dying art and skill in many quarters. Let’s not allow an entire segment of our society with it.
Follow J.R. on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at email@example.com.