by Holly Leach – I have been hungry a few times in my life. Not the kind of hungry where you canâ€™t wait for lunch; the kind where you know there is not going to be any lunch or dinner tonight and it’s a toss up if there will be food tomorrow.
One memory stands out: I was a young military wife with two boys under the age of two. We had just come back from overseas. Our next duty station was in Connecticut. The move took all the money we had but we got there. We were staying in temporary quarters until we found a apartment. We were really short on funds and payday was almost a two weeks away. I took what money we had and went to the commissary. First, I made sure the boys had formula and baby cereal till we got paid. There really wasnâ€™t much money left but we had to have something so I bought peanut butter and pasta for me and my husband. That was hard. We were in bad shape, but we made it to payday. We found a place to live and things got better, but getting back to normal took a couple of months. It was a scary time in my life- one I donâ€™t want to experience again.
I did not know it then but what I was experiencing was food insecurity.
Food insecurity isnâ€™t starvation in the traditional sense. It is the single working mom that has a mayonnaise sandwich so her kids can have the last 2 slices of bologna. It is the family that portions out dinner with measuring cups to make sure everyone gets something to eat. It is the child that eats every bite of his school lunch because it is all he will have to eat till he gets back to school the next day.
Food insecurity is on the rise everywhere in the US, even here in the great plains. Here in Oklahoma, amidst the amber waves of grain and thundering herds of cattle, children go hungry.
According to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma 500.000 Oklahomans face hunger every day. The population of Oklahoma is around 3 million. That’s 16% of the population. 1 in 5 Oklahoma school children are food insecure , and the Food Bank feeds 77.000 people every week.
So what can we do about it? Well, I am not sure.
I have been doing research and I am a little disappointed. The state and government websites give you the cold hard numbers on hunger in America. They break it down into demographics and percentages and leave it at that. The government is better at gathering data than providing solutions, and with the current mania for debt reduction at the state and federal level, it’s not likely that help is forthcoming from those quarters. When I look at philanthropic websites the first thing I see are requests for donations in great big letters, but usually any information about how and where to volunteer is hidden in a drop-down menu or way down near the bottom of the page in tiny print. Sweat equity is good and necessary, but non profits desperately need the one thing that isn’t easy to come by these days: cash.
I am no economist, but on the surface it seems pretty plain. Food insecurity has always existed, but when wall street tanked and the bottom dropped out of the economy a lot of people fell on hard times. I once read a study that said for every month a person or family is out of work it takes three months to get back to normalcy and I personally know people who have been looking for work for over 6 months.
I hear on the news that things are getting better, but honestly folks, it doesnâ€™t look like the money is coming back anytime soon. When will the profits from the wall street recovery magically trickle down into jobs and prosperity for everyone else? Not soon enough for a lot of hungry people all over our state.
Again, what can we do? We can each try to help in the best we know how.
1. If you have the money to donate to The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma do so now. Donâ€™t wait till Christmas. Every dollar the Food Bank gets provides 7 meals to people in need and hunger knows no season.
2. Volunteer! Most food assistance groups are “faith based organizations” but you donâ€™t have to me a churchgoer to help them out. Other good places to start are Schools, head-start programs, Big brother Big sister, mentoring programs and the YMCA.
3. Teach your family about food insecurity use it as a starting point to making better food choices and community involvement. When my son was 14 he volunteered at the Food Bank. He was the one who made me aware of the hunger situation in Oklahoma.
4. Talk to your friends and family. If 550.000 Oklahomans are in danger of food insecurity chances are you know one or more of them. A friend in need is a friend indeed.
As for me, I have okc.net, and on top of volunteering I will bring you more information on the situation. Interviews with people in need and those on the frontlines of this battle. Also, I will be sharing recipes I have gathered over the years that I use to keep my food costs under control.
Every little bit helps and sometimes a little bit of help makes all the difference in the world.