Sometimes a statistic can really make you stop and think.
Recently such a statistic came across our desks -- on average 5,294 locals on the Kenai Peninsula receive food stamps each month. Many of those who receive the stamps also require other nutritional services to meet their needs, too.
Those close to the issue know the scope of the problem, but the effects of food insecurity -- that's the new bureaucratic term for hunger -- are not always visible to the rest of us. Ideally that number should be zero -- we'd like to see happy, healthy and thriving Peninsula residents who don't have to worry whether they'll have food on their plates tonight.
This statistic is coupled with recent news that millions of dollars could be cut from a bill that usually provides for such support. For many, food stamp funding is a life necessity and if pulled out from under them would put enormous pressure on the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank and our other local food pantries to attempt to bridge the gap.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program gives aid to some 46 million people, or one in seven Americans. Last year 86,044 Alaskans received food stamps, many of whom were elderly, disabled adults and single parents. These are our neighbors, family and friends.
While one could get lost in politics discussing whether or not cuts to the bill providing food stamp funding are justified, what is clear is that there's a large need. A need to do something to help, and where there is a need there should also be volunteers and donors.
Local food pantries do the best they can, but they often need help with the basics -- preparing food kits and gathering donations.
The Kenai Peninsula Food bank accepts all food donations from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and non-perishable items can be left in donation bins after hours outside of the building. Food may also be dropped off for the Nikiski Food Pantry at the M&M Market or the Nikiski Post Office. Pantry hours are 9 a.m. to noon on Thursdays.
Also if you believe strongly in maintaining funding for food stamps, write your local, state and national legislators and let them know. If you think there's a better way, well then express that too.
Moreover, while it's important to realize just how many people are on food stamps here and that help is needed, it is also important to remember we're in a national depression and, believe it or not, times aren't the best in Alaska either. Luckily our state isn't as bad as some and our area isn't as bad as others that face chronic joblessness.
So take that statistic -- 5,294 -- and interpret it how you'd like. Stop and think how you feel about it. But remember that's the need and the reality. The sooner we can grasp that, the sooner we can start helping meet that need and work toward reducing it to zero, where it should be.