Friday, June 12, 2009

"Attacking Hunger at Its Roots"

"This morning, one billion people around the world woke up hungry and tonight, they will go to sleep hungry. This issue has not gotten the attention it deserves,..."

It's difficult not to read more when that's the opening of a blog on Huffington Post. It's made even more important to keep reading when part of your job is to see people who are hungry and applying for Food Stamps. That's right. Here, in the US, in Massachusetts, in my community -- people are hungry. More people are living hungry today because of the tight economy, job loss, spending down their retirement funds early, and for many other reasons.

People don't have enough money to pay rent, heat, electric, phone, and also buy food -- nutritious food. Food Stamps are designed to supplement the food budget of low-income residents as part of getting proper nutrition and staying healthy. Alleviating that hunger is as important as economic recovery. Hunger is not just a physical problem. As Clinton states in her post,

"Hunger is not only a physical condition. It is a drain on economic development, a threat to global security, a barrier to health and education reform, and a trap for the millions of people worldwide..."

While Clinton is speaking in a global context, I see it and am working on it in a local context. And that is how it should be. Hunger is a human issue. We need to address it both globally and locally. And because of that, I am part of the Tri-City Hunger Network.

For people in my area (the tri-cities of Everett, Malden, & Medford MA), there are a number of food pantries where people can get basic groceries such as bread, fresh fruit, and vegetables. There are also some soup kitchens that can provide a hot meal. You'll find them on the Hunger Network Calendar on the website of the Cyber Cafe @ Malden Square. If you need food, go there. If you don't need food, can you volunteer?

I remember taking groups of college students to Appalachia in the late 1970s for spring break to help poor people in rural America. While there, students were exposed to poverty in a new context and gained insight into their own view of the world. When we returned to campus, they were able to "see" the poverty in their own community. Many immediately joined other volunteers at local soup kitchens and in other ways used their new-found "vision" to do what they could.

Hungry people are in every community. If you don't see it, maybe your vision of the world around you needs some fine tuning. You can start by asking at your local faith organization. Are they doing anything? Why not? What about your local or regional Community Action Program/Agency (CAP or CAA)? Do you know who or where they are? In MA, go to MassCAP to find it. If you're in another state, you can always ask MassCAP for a referral to an agency in your state; they may know it. Or Google CAP or CAA agencies for your state. You can also find information here.

Hunger is real and it's all around us. Let's do something about it.

For more information about Food Stamps, Project Bread is a great resource. Your area DTA office manages the Food Stamp program -- now called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) -- which is funded through funds from the Department of Agriculture.

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