As a social worker, I’ve seen my fair share of desperation with clients and their families. I’ve done what I can to help in the moment, but the people I work with often go home to households with bare cupboards and empty shelves. Money goes to rent, gas, and electricity, leaving fruits and vegetables to fall by the wayside.
There’s a lot of reasons why people in our country are going hungry, why children in our schools, day cares, and parks aren’t eating breakfast or lunch: the lack of a “living wage,” poor education about food, cooking, and nutrition, the tanking of our economy, lack of access to fresh, quality foods…the list goes on. The reasons behind hunger in America are forever enmeshed and require a major societal shift in order to address the major causes.
While we work on those societal shifts, people are hungry…
The St. Louis Area Foodbank provides emergency food to approximately 261,000 different people annually, 39% of which are under the age of 18
58% of people served report having to choose between paying for food and paying for utilities or heating fuel
49% of households served are receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits; however, it is likely that many more are eligible
In 2010 alone, Food Outreach provided more than 473,000 meals to clients in need with HIV/AIDS or cancer
and so are their children…
Within the 26 counties served by the St. Louis Area Foodbank , nearly 1/4 of children are struggling with food insecurity
In St. Louis City/County, 100% of food insecure children live at or below 185% of the poverty line.
You can always donate or volunteer here , or here . I always encourage you to do what you can by donating your time, money, or food.
That said, did you know that September is Hunger Action Month? In just one short week, you can participate, educate, and challenge yourself by participating in two ventures that will open your eyes and help spread the word about the plight of those living with hunger on a daily basis.
The Hunger Challenge
Food banks and non-profit organizations around the country are urging people to take on the 2011 Hunger Challenge.
The challenge? For one week, eat only the food you’re able to buy using the cost of food stamps.
Live in Missouri? You’ll live off of $4 a day, or $29/week, per person in your household.
Live in Illinois? You’ll live off of $5 a day, or $35/week, per person in your household.
Your state: To see the average monthly food benefit per person in your state, click here. Remember, this data is monthly, so you’ll need to divide by four. For more information on food stamps (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), click here .
Not only will I be participating in this challenge, but I’ll be blogging for Food Outreach and Feeding Illinois (on behalf of the St. Louis Area Food Bank) about my experiences. I’ll be linking each post on my own blog, and making daily updates the week I participate.
Since I live in Illinois but also support Missouri, I’ll be buying groceries using a $60 budget ($30 for me,$30 for Matt, a compromise between the $29/$35 difference between MO and IL).
I encourage you to join the Hunger Challenge! I’ll be participating September 18 – 24, 2011. Join me?
The $5 Challenge
Another option to educate, participate, and challenge yourself is to join the Slow Food $5 Challenge ! We want people to “take back the value meal” by eating well for only $5 per person!
On Saturday, September 17th we at Slow Food St. Louis challenge you to make a meal for yourself or your family for $5 per person. It can be anything, at any time during the day, for anyone! Size doesn’t matter; what matters is that your food is quality, nutritious, and costs less than $5 per person. We want to show America that with only $5 in your pocket, a fast food meal doesn’t have to be the answer.
If you’re local to St. Louis, I urge you to register your meal, big or small, with Slow Food. They’re looking to see what cities show the most support for this venture and I want them to notice St. Louis!
You can also join us on 9/17 at noon for a $5/person picnic! We’ll be meeting at Tower Grove Park near the market and dining together. Anyone is welcome – just bring a $5 meal using local, in-season food for yourself!
So, which challenge will you participate in? Try googling for “hunger challenge + your state” to find local events, or contact your local Slow Food chapter.