Food security, hard to come by

We all know what it’s like to be hungry. We eat, we work, we play, we sleep, and then we want to eat again.

But not everyone understands what it’s like to go hungry. To be without. For that, one would have to know from deep within what it’s like to need nourishment for survival but not have any food within reach: to truly be without.

Thankfully, there are a number of food pantries in the Harlem Valley geared to feed those in need throughout the year. They do great work, thanks largely to volunteers. Without many of those pantries, scores of local residents would go hungry.

And we don’t mean they wouldn’t get to eat when they wanted to, or that they couldn’t snack or go out to dinner. We mean that they wouldn’t have any food on the table for their families — that their children would go to school hungry and return the same way. We mean that they’d be so distracted from hunger pains that it would be difficult for them to work, to study, to parent, to participate in their community. 

That is what hunger truly means.

But we can all do something about it. For one, we can donate nonperishables to the many pantries listed on Page A1. If not, we can donate money —  just write a check out to an area pantry. 

We can volunteer at local churches and food lockers, possibly in their gardens, or simply to help distribute food to those in need.

We can do our part to erase the stigma associated with going hungry. For many, it’s situational. They may have lost a job, they may have huge debt, they may have too many household members to care for properly. Whatever the reason, we shouldn’t hold it against anyone who’s hungry.

Access to fresh, nutritious food is a fundamental right for all Americans — for all people. Easy access. But it’s not so simple. For 1 in 6 Americans, there simply isn’t a way to get food onto the table. What they need is help. Support. Caring.

According to the USDA,  food insecurity is defined as “the lack of access, at times, to enough food for all household members,” according to www.dosomething.org. 

Households with children typically experience a much higher rate of food insecurity than those without: 20.6 percent versus 12.2 percent.

Dosomething.org also notes that “food insecurity exists in every county in America. 

“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 percent have access to summer meal sites.

“An estimated 1 in 7  people are enrolled in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Nearly half are children.

“Roughly 40 percent 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.”

The numbers are heartbreaking. The problem, real. 

Local organizations like the North East Community Center are doing their best to help improve food access for area residents. The Dutchess County Office for the Aging is also doing its part. Then there are food  drives like Sunday in the Country — essential for residents in the Harlem Valley. Schools, churches, nonprofits — they’re all in on efforts to eradicate food insecurity. 

Awareness is an important first step in the battling the scourge of hunger. Summing up the courage to ask for help when needed is another. And, of course, lending a helping hand in any way possible is key. However you choose to make a difference, let’s all do our best — and make a concerted effort — to finally end hunger.