Last week, I participated in a family activity at my kid’s school. As I crossed the building, I came upon a sign in the front door of the cafeteria that read “get a free food box and free books, come in.” Who doesn’t like a free book, right? So we went in. All over the tables, there were a variety of children books all piled up. I took a look; most of them were for kids 4-6 years old. Since my kid is not in that age range anymore we struggled to find something she wanted. The lady at the front desk insisted that we should take a food box. They had way too many. So we did.
When we got home, we open that box. A couple dozen vegetable cans, a couple pasta bags and a box of very sugary cereal. We have a house pantry stocked, and I thought of myself that is something we always take for granted. Not everyone is so fortunate. What could I cook with this food? Certainly many dishes with the cans, but we could not prepare anything with just that, and more than half of them will go back to the food pantry because is either something we would not eat or has no nutritional value whatsoever.
I always thought of the United States as a place where food is plenteous. It was very shocking to contemplate the absurd reality, how many families in need live in my school district that we need boxes of food? I have been living in this country for more than 12 years, and I’d never heard other people talking about this issue. Maybe politics, pop culture or sports, but as a community we have missed the suffering of other people, the poor and the hungry.
I am shocked by the number of hungry children who live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, where I never thought they had a problem with not having enough to eat. The hard reality of many families is heart-breaking: Kids living knowing how food stamps and local food pantry works. According to a 2015 report from USDA, 42.2 million people lived in food-insecure households in the United States. 6.4 million of them are kids and they live in households that struggle to afford food, on top of that, I found out that there are more who are unable to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children. Meanwhile, according to the Food Nutrition Services (FNS) in 2016, the number of people participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has been reduced because of the reintroduction of certain restrictions. The consequences has been the increase of illnesses derived from the of the low consumption of healthy food like diabetes and obesity.
As for us, how can we help decrease food insecurity in our neighborhoods? Certainly, I suggest that volunteering for small non-profits in programs that help provide nutritious food or food education for families, encouraging people to donate money not cans to food organizations, decreasing the demand for grains, encouraging people for policy change. We can help fight food insecurity, as individuals, as costumers, and as responsible citizens. We certainly can make a difference.