Guest Commentary

Give a hand up to our neighbors facing hunger

Sally Ryan of Kansas City assembled boxes for Harvesters.
Sally Ryan of Kansas City assembled boxes for Harvesters. File photo

This month, a new report from the USDA revealed food insecurity — limited or uncertain access to enough food — did not change significantly in the last year and remains higher than the 2007 pre-recession rate. Despite low unemployment, people in our community are still struggling to put food on the table.

Low and stagnant wages and rising meal costs are just some of the reasons an estimated 364,000 people, including one in six children, in Kansas City and neighboring counties do not know if they will have food tomorrow for themselves or for everyone in the household. Be it a state line, county line, road or city limit, hunger knows no boundaries.

We don’t always realize the face of hunger could be a co-worker or neighbor, silently working to make ends meet by skipping meals, watering down food or eating food past expiration dates.

Harvesters – The Community Food Network recently found nearly two-thirds of Kansans and more than half of Missourians underestimate hunger in our community. Hunger can be an unseen force, affecting a child’s behavior in school or the overall health of our community.

Families who struggle to stretch limited incomes and provide enough food to feed their children often face tough trade-offs. As a result, hunger has played an unexpected role in the obesity epidemic among low-income families and contributes to poor health, lower productivity and higher medical costs.

In adults, poor nutrition can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression and fatigue. However, less than half surveyed by Harvesters in Kansas and Missouri realized hunger was directly linked to these long-term health conditions.

September is Hunger Action Month, a nationwide initiative designed to mobilize and educate the community to take action against hunger. It’s time to unify and be part of the solution. What if we could provide healthier food to fill empty plates and promote good health for all community members?

Charities, individuals, communities, businesses and government all have an important role to play in helping people who struggle to put food on the table. Many of us help through food drives, volunteer days, donations and advocacy.

Even with all this support, each day is another day of hunger for those it impacts. We make a donation of money or food and wake up the next day and go on with our life. A hungry person wakes up hungry again.

We have incredible support from the heartland in our daily fight against hunger. However, we know it is time for us to be Hungry4More. Hungry4More, a Harvesters community initiative inspired by the need to provide more nutritious food to the thousands of hungry people in our community, was created to rally the community and intensify our fight against hunger. We have to be hungry for more food drives, more volunteers, more donations, more education and more advocacy. When we think we have done enough, we must be hungry to do more.

There are many opportunities to take action and make a difference by giving food, time, money and voice. Giving our neighbors a hand up in hard times could start with a simple can of food or fresh vegetable donation, but when multiplied by hundreds of thousands of people, it can change the course of communities. Will you join us?

To learn more about Hunger Action Month and ways to take action against hunger today and in the future, visit Harvesters.org.

John George is vice president of greetings strategy at Hallmark Cards, Inc. and chairman of Harvesters’ Board of Directors. He lives in Overland Park.

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