Cyndi's Two Cents

Hungry kids in farm communities

The subject of hunger in rural America is one I’ve touched on many times over these past dozen or so years I’ve written this column.  It is not easy for many of us to truly comprehend, but the fact of the matter is every 3.6 seconds, somewhere in the world, someone starves to death.  More than 7 million children starve to death every year.

In a country of abundance compared to many places in the world, it is hard to imagine that hunger affects people in both urban and rural areas.  According to Feeding America’s most recent “Map the Meal Gap” study, the average food insecurity rate among rural counties (15%) is higher than the average rate among counties in metropolitan areas (14%).

Several months ago, the 8-year-old nephew of one of my contemporaries spent the night with a friend.  Thank goodness, not all 8-year old boys have fallen victim to social exclusiveness based on ownership of name brand clothing and video game collections, because this friend was lacking in the possessions department.  This friend’s family as a whole was lacking in the possessions department.

Apparently, the boys rode the school bus to the friend’s home and played the games that young boys play in the yard with no toys as props until dark.  Inside the house, the boys played together in the bedroom shared with 2 siblings.  As the evening wore on, the visitor’s stomach began to growl.  “When are we going to eat?”  He asked his little friend.

“Oh, we eat at school,” answered the voice of innocence.

Does that break your heart?  It breaks mine.  This boy’s parents are not bad people.  They are poor.

Food insecure, translated for real people, means not having enough food for an active, healthy life.  Food insecure means hungry.  It means that little boys and little girls go to bed without supper, not because they have misbehaved, but because there is no food.

Sadly, children have the least ability to do something about their situation.  They are dependent upon their parents or other family, friends or their community for food and shelter.  Hunger can negatively impact a child’s ability to learn and finish school. How can they be expected to thrive when their poor little bodies are running on empty?  When they grow up, they are less likely to overcome the economic challenges that lead to food insecurity.

Food insecurity exists in every county in the United States, from a high of 38% in Jefferson County, Mississippi to a low of 3% in Grant County, Kansas.  Predominately rural counties have higher rates of food insecurity than urban counties.  It is ironic that many of the food insecure households are in rural and farm communities where we take great pride in providing a safe, affordable and abundant supply of food.

I’ve heard people say “The government has programs for that.”  They do, but not every food insecure individual is eligible for those federal nutrition programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or free and reduced-price school lunch programs.  This underscores the great importance of charitable food programs.

Where does that 8-year old boy who eats at school get fed when he’s on summer break?  I hope you will consider donating to your local food bank.

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  • Seeds + a garden = some but not all food needs. It would be a start to have a seed program for the people that need it. Give them the seeds and the instruction on how to garden,,,,,

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