'Food insecurity' hits home: No matter what it's called, hunger affects entire community

Posted: Sunday, December 06, 2009

Thanksgiving is past and we had more than enough food on our plates. We enjoyed leftover turkey and dressing for a day or two. No one in my family was concerned if there would be a Thanksgiving dinner. We've always been fortunate to have enough food.

Through the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank and many of the agencies it serves, families who may have been concerned about Thanksgiving dinner, were able to provide a turkey and trimmings on their tables. Seventy-one families received dinners directly from the Food Bank plus 400 turkeys were distributed by the member agencies In addition, commodities boxes for a record 64 families were handed out in one day, Monday, Nov. 23.

For those of us involved in providing food to those in need, it is one sign that the hunger problem is growing on the Kenai Peninsula.

In the early days of our country, food availability was considered "feast or famine." Today, famine and starvation are unknown in the United States. However, there is an increase in what is termed "food insecurity." The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines "food insecurity" as not having enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle. Food insecurity is a reality for those whose income is insufficient to pay the monthly bills and provide enough food to feed their families. For some people on the Kenai, it is an ongoing problem and has been for years, especially in winter. Recent job lay-offs, salary reductions, illness, divorce and other problems have caused more of our neighbors to be confronted with a need for help. They may never have experienced this before.

The reasons are many but the problem is the same. The money doesn't stretch far enough and groceries are the one item people can control and cut back. The implications of inadequate food to families' health and well-being may not be evident immediately. Eventually there will be problems. We as a community can keep that from happening.

The people of the Kenai are well known for their generosity. Churches, service organizations and individuals often step forward when they realize the need. The need is here and now. We must consider our good fortune and be willing to pass it on to help our neighbors. The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank needs monetary or canned food donations of any amount, to provide for the increasing number of families seeking help. The number of new applicants for food has increased 40 percent since 2008. The Fireweed Dining Room provides an average of over 1,750 lunches per month. The warehouse for the Food Bank will be expanded to make room for the additional food storage. Funding will be through a cost-share grant from the Rasmuson Foundation. We need public donations to meet the match.

Tonight 800 million people throughout the world will go to bed hungry. If our community is successful in addressing the hunger issue, none will live here on the peninsula. No one deserves to be hungry.

Linda Griffith is a member of the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank Board of Directors.

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