Raise your hand if earlier this weekend, you and your friends swapped tales of your culinary adventures, shared food photos or plotted lunch or dinner “out” sometime over the next few days.
I hope there are a lot of hands up in the air, because this coming week is the tipping point for Share our Strength’s Dine Out for No Kid Hungry campaign and your pending plans might have you sitting at a table in a participating restaurant. If you’re still pondering your destination, this link can point you toward several local eateries where your dining dollars will make a difference.
Why do I care so much? The answer is simple: I can’t recall a time in my life when healthy, non-processed and flavorful meals were in scarce supply.
I’ve never had to worry where my next meal was coming from, or whether it was coming at all. My learning and energy level never suffered from a lack of nutrition, and the only days spent without food were due to illness or being too busy. Not eating has always been a choice. Advocating against hunger is also a choice.
Hunger is the single biggest solvable problem facing the world today.
Looking back, I thank my grandmother, who lived a part of her life during the Depression, for keeping my siblings and cousins well-fed, and for teaching us an appreciation for food and cooking. Her stove- and pantry-side lessons, particularly how to preserve, stretch and substitute ingredients (tuna meatballs, anyone?) in leaner times, were pointed: Make the most of groceries, and avoid food waste whenever possible. Most importantly, be grateful for every bite.
As kids, we didn’t realize then, how lucky we were to have these lessons handed down. Or, to never experience the type of hunger we hear about today, and that in our youthful ignorance, we didn’t know existed to such a debilitating degree. Hunger has been a storyline since the beginning of time, and despite enormous gains in manufacturing and commerce, in 2013 global hunger statistics are still staggering. Here is what that looks like in the U.S.
Without starting from scratch and teaching kids—who don’t have a role model to guide them through all the aspects of putting a healthy meal on the table (shopping, preparing, storing)—hunger will be difficult to resolve in the near future. Without providing education and job opportunities for people of all income levels, who can and want to work, hunger will linger.
Here in Philadelphia, a city that boasts a vibrant dining scene and has multiple just-for-fun food events each year—some to benefit hunger advocacy—the food insecurity rate is 22% (adults and children). A neighborhood just outside one of its wealthiest neighborhoods (in PA’s First Congressional District) became famous for being the second “hungriest” in the country.
This is unacceptable. In Philadelphia, or anywhere.
Kids are the hardest hit: They have no control over the economic factors that hinder their parents ability to pay for quality groceries. Beyond kids and teens, though, is a broader problem: Nutrition equality has become devalued. The disparity between haves and have nots is skewed in a world where food is entertainment, and the technology of transportation, irrigation and farming is more advanced than ever. There’s a missing link, and though organizations around the world are working tirelessly to make a difference, hunger exists all around us.
Society is being impacted on a critical level: People who are hungry cannot sustain daily responsibilities because they’re depleted cognitively and physically. Children cannot grow and learn and play. But you, and I, can do something about it—with a little help from No Kid Hungry. The first steps are awareness, appreciation and action. Here are some of things happening this week:
- A second round of SNAP (food stamps) cuts are pending. (The first reduced monthly allocations by $36 for a family of four, a loss of 20+ meals each month). This additional $40 billion cut will leave approximately 4-6 million people without support, and 200,000-plus kids without access to free school meals.
- Monday, Sept. 16 is No Kid Hungry’s twEAT out for Hunger, a social media blitz designed to drive consumers to Dine Out for No Kid Hungry at their local restaurant. This is a coast-to-coast event with more than 8,000 restaurants participating. “Dine Out” runs all month, but the big push for action is 9/16-9/21. You can help by sharing tweets, and making reservations—a lot.
- Make some noise: NKH’s Thunderclap will collectively bring attention to the cause by sharing a simultaneously transmitted message. This will put the public, and social media, to the test.
Want to learn more? Explore NoKidHungry.com to further educate yourself on the realities of childhood hunger in the U.S. and about other ways you, your family and your friends can contribute. As you’ll quickly glean from the Amazing Stories page, “every dollar counts.”