To the Point for 6-7-12

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I THOUGHT I WOULD GIVE my column space this week to a report about a truly important issue – people going hungry in our nation, our state, and our community.

Read the information below with an open mind and an open heart, because it’s a real problem and a real need:

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A new study released this week by Feeding America shows that children continue to struggle with hunger in every county in the nation with nearly one in four in Indiana at risk of going hungry.

The study, “Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2012” gives a one-of-kind look at the occurrence of children living on the brink of hunger in the U.S. at a county and congressional district level. The report includes an interactive map that gives users the ability to look at the specifics of food insecurity in any county in the US.

In Indiana, the report finds that 22.7 percent, or an estimated 358,120 Hoosier children may not know from where their next meal will come. Individual Indiana counties ranged from 26.9 percent in Miami and Starke Counties, to 14.5 percent in Hamilton County.

The report also found that of the ‘food insecure kids’ in Indiana, about 30-percent may not be eligible for federal nutrition programs like free or reduced-price school lunch or breakfast.

The statistics for Switzerland County show that the ‘food insecurity’ rate here is 13.2-percent; with that translating to 1,370 ‘food insecure’ people – people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.’

The report goes on to say that it would have taken $610,770 to meet Switzerland County’s food need in 2010.

Thankfully, here in Switzerland County, we have the Quercus Grove Food Pantry and the faithfulness of Lew and Mary Gordon.

“As summer begins and Hoosier kids do not have access to school meals, we must take this information as a call to action. It is unacceptable for nearly a quarter of all children to be at risk of hunger in Indiana,” said Emily Weikert Bryant, Executive Director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry. “Families at risk can call 2-1-1 to be connected to emergency food services, including locations for kids’ meals through the summer food service program. Those more fortunate can donate food, funds, or time to local food banks and pantries to do what we can to help those in need. There is no reason any child should be faced with the grim option of going without meals.”

By providing the information at a county level, agencies and civic leaders are able to assess where the need is greatest to help feed the more 16 million children nationwide who are at risk of hunger.

In Indiana, the member food banks of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry provided nearly 66.4 million pounds of food and groceries through the network of eleven member food banks that serve about 1,700 food pantries, shelters, and soup kitchens. All member food banks of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry are part of the Feeding America network, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization.

The ConAgra Foods Foundation funded this research with the goal of advancing the collective understanding of child hunger in America, so that resources at the local and national level could be better leveraged to help children and families in need. The research is based on “Map the Meal Gap 2012: Food Insecurity Estimates at the County Level”, supported by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and Nielsen.

A summary of the report and interactive map can be found at: feedingamerica.org/mapthegap.

“Food Insecurity” is a phrase used by the USDA to describe lack of consistent access to adequate amounts of food for an active, healthy life.