Hidden Hunger in the Heartland May 3, 2011Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: Bill Moyers, Food bank, Health, Hunger, Malnutrition, National Association of Letter Carriers, Nutrition, Poverty, Second Harvest, US poverty
American farmers produce food for our nation and several others, yet it is many of these very people who wonder where and when they will have their next meal.
U.S. households receiving food from a food pantry nearly doubled between 2007 and 2009, resulting in 14.7% food-insecure people, or over 40 million, the highest rate since 1995. One-third of these are children.
In many of these towns, lack of access to food and constrained resources create continued hardships for families. In the best of times, both parents are working long weeks but the income still places them below the poverty line. Childcare is hard to find and more expensive, transportation is poor, the cost of gasoline is prohibitive, rates of unemployment remain high and levels of education low. Daily, these families make the difficult decision of whether to buy food or pay for bills, medications, gas, or daycare.
The poverty-hunger-disease cycle exists not only in developing countries, but also in the rural US. The World Health Organization states that malnutrition is the gravest single threat to health, and the largest cause of child mortality. The affordable food is high in fat and otherwise not nutritious. This leads to an unvaried diet of poor sustenance high in simple carbohydrates resulting in increases in chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Overeating after skipping meals places a great deal of stress on the body, but is a common practice for parents who pass on two meals each day for the sake of their children.
Nutrition is most essential for the first three years of life. During critical growth periods, malnourished children have slower growth and inhibited brain development, greater susceptibility to obesity, lower academic achievement, a greater need for mental health services and inability to cope. These problems increase the likelihood of dropping out of school, inability to find a job, lack of health care and an increase in substance abuse.
Thousands of these farmers live on land which has been in their families for five or six generations. Often, their parents survived on food stamps so the way of life is familiar and hard to escape. Of course we can’t approach this subject without bringing up the Farm Bill. Here’s what David Beckmann says about it in an interview with Bill Moyers. Note this interview was conducted in 2008, during the middle of the spike of food bank usage, and before the new Farm Bill. The stated statistics are even higher today:
The National Association of Letter Carriers with Campbell Soup is sponsoring a Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive on Saturday, May 14. Leave food donations next to your mailbox to be picked up by letter carriers and taken back to the postal station where they are sorted and delivered to local food banks. This is the largest one-day national food drive, receiving 77.1 million pounds of food in 2010. America’s Grow A Row campaign encourages each family with a garden to plant an extra row of produce to donate to a food bank this summer as fresh food is in great demand.
Amid the recent weather calamities making life much more difficult than it already was for the heartland, let’s make helping those who grow our food a priority. Where would we be without them?
How to help:
SNAP (food stamp) eligibility site.