It’s almost Thanksgiving, when many of us are reminded of all we have to be thankful for. Often the little things mean the most, like having a special meal with the people we love. Sadly, this simple joy is out of reach for many of our struggling neighbors.
An alarming one in seven in our community — that’s more than 364,000 people — are at risk of hunger.
Harvesters—The Community Food Network has a paper plate campaign that asks people to complete the following sentence. “I can’t ___ on an empty stomach.” My personal answers are “think” and “make good decisions.”
Ask yourself that question, and then consider how many others are impacted by the answers you share.
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Without available food assistance — either through the work of the food bank and its partner agencies or federal nutrition programs — food insecurity would take a greater toll not just on food-insecure individuals, but on the overall strength of our community.
The consequences of food insecurity are also felt in our schools, in our businesses and in our health care system. Absenteeism in schools and in the workplace have financial implications, as attendance impacts school funding and employees cannot produce if they are unavailable to work.
Additionally, chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure are better controlled through a consistent, nutritious diet, resulting in fewer doctor and hospital visits and lower related costs.
No community is healthy when the people who live in it may have food today, but are uncertain of the source for future meals. Community support in the form of food, time and money enables Harvesters’ network to feed 141,500 people every month and provide immediate relief.
At Harvesters, this is our vision: We envision a time when everyone in our community will have access to enough nutritious food to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
We know the impact access to nutritious food can have on children, families and seniors.
Children who participate in our BackSnack weekend feeding program show improved grades, better attendance and fewer behavioral issues. Seniors can live independently in their homes for a longer period. And adults in the workplace exhibit increased productivity and less absenteeism.
But we must also be hungry for more. The bigger question we also must address is how we can work to end hunger.
Harvesters, our network of agencies and Feeding America, our national hunger-relief partner, are committed to increasing resources to “shorten the line.”
We believe this can happen through enhanced collaboration with entities that provide services — health care, education, housing and employment resources — designed to help stabilize the lives of children, seniors and families, ultimately better enabling them to move beyond food insecurity.
Valerie Nicholson-Watson is president and CEO of Harvesters — The Community Food Network.
On Thursday, Nov. 9, American Public Square will present “Bad Choices. No Choices. Food Insecurity.” A panel of local, regional and national experts will discuss food insecurity and what can be done to ensure reliable access to affordable, healthy food for everyone in Kansas City. For more information and to register for the program visit americanpublicsquare.org or call 816-235-5067.