I just wrote an oped in the Cincinnati Enquirer about fighting hunger at home and abroad. One way we can do this is by using school lunches.
Food insecurity is on the rise in America, and worldwide nearly 1 billion people suffer from hunger. What is tragic about these statistics is that there is enough food for everyone on the planet. There just has to be the will and leadership to end hunger.
In my oped I discussed upcoming summer feeding programs for children in the United States. When school is over for the year, children no longer have access to the free and reduced price lunches that are in place for them. Summer feeding programs are needed to fill in the gap. Unfortunately, they are not always available. With hunger on the rise, it’s ever so important that feeding programs be established for the upcoming summer.
I gave the example of Ohio and how Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman can work together on this issue. Judging from Feeding America’s recent hunger findings, nearly 2 million people in the state are considered food insecure. Ohio has one of the higher food-insecure rates in the country at 17 percent. Safety nets like school feeding, particularly in the summer, are crucial for needy children.
Thea DeRosa, Director of Programs at the Cleveland Food Bank, says, “Children should not have to grow up in an environment where they are worried about how they are going to get their next meal, or witness their parents worry over feeding the family. With summer feeding, we can take a little bit of that worry away and assure that children in low income neighborhoods will have access to a well balanced meal in the summer.”
Look at some of the needs of Ohio using Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap interactive feature. Take Highland County in Ohio, which according to the Feeding America map has 21 percent of its population as food insecure. Let’s also look at the county’s summer feeding to get an idea of what kind of meal program might be available for needy children in the coming months. The Children’s Hunger Alliance of Ohio reports that in Highland county only 120 out of 4,287 eligible students took part in last summer’s feeding programs.
In Franklin County, with 16.6 percent of its population as food insecure, there were only 15,280 out of 98,440 eligible students receiving summer feeding in 2010. In Butler County there were only 1,881 out of 23,110 eligible students receiving summer feeding. In Hamilton County, which is 17 percent food insecure, only 4,962 out of 61,693 eligible students participated.
Last year Anne Curry of NBC featured a food bank in Athens County, Ohio, which has a food insecurity rate of nearly 21 percent. In that county last year only 161 out of 4,844 eligible students took part in summer feeding.
So there is a tremendous coverage gap in the summer and many children and families are missing out on this important safety net. The key is for Ohio and other states to establish sites so summer feeding can take place. Other alternatives include mobile feeding sites as well as CARE package schemes to be sent to families in rural areas where it is harder to establish a summer feeding location.
Here in the United States we can identify with food insecurity. Globally there is a massive hunger crisis that is fast escalating largely due to conflict, natural disasters and high food prices. When we craft our foreign policy, it’s important to remember that stability, peace and economic progress depend on adequate food supplies and accessibility.
In recent years foreign policy has not taken into account the effect of hunger and malnutrition. This has to change quickly. As I mentioned in my Enquirer oped, the World War II generation worked to build our first national school lunch program while fighting hunger overseas. I think that is good example for us to follow in these challenging times.
To see how your state and county is doing with food security visit the Map the Meal Gap. Click on your state and then you can review county information on levels of hunger.