As Hunger Action Month (HAM) comes to an end, we can reflect at a particularly busy and productive September at Mid-South Food Bank.
Events have included the annual Miles for Meals Family Festival at Overton Park, the kickoff to the Kroger-led Million Meals Challenge (an ongoing contest to raise dollars/food among Miss. State, Ole Miss and the University of Memphis), food and money donation drives at both musical concerts (Widespread Panic) and stage performances (Bolton High’s Greater Tuna) and Stuff A MATA Bus at the Poplar Plaza shopping center.
So too have there been multiple corporate/organization partners and individuals who have collected food/money on their own initiative and delivered them to the Food Bank office on South Dudley where we distribute the food to our Partner Agencies. While food and monetary donations were collected at the first Fair of the month, The Delta Fair at the AgriCenter, more collections at Saturday’s Mid-South Fair in Southaven ($1 off admission with donation), wrapped up HAM events.
The Food Bank will not have a final tally of all the food and money collections in September until next week, but we know the final figure will be in the thousands. We are grateful.
Another key aspect of HAM involves a united effort by Food Banks across the nation (there’s 200 of them) to drive awareness about food insecurity. In the United States there’s an average of one out of every 7 people who don’t know where their next meal will derive. Nor do they know if it will be enough.
It’s a remarkable statistic, and one more people need to hear. In the Mid-South alone, Feeding America conducted a study two years ago that determined there are 416,000 people in a 31-county area that are food insecure. One-third of these people are children.
Mid-South Food Bank has been busy pushing exposure, education, advocacy and raising food and funds, and we could not have managed to do it if it were not for the huge assistance of our volunteers, who were there every step of the way. But the effort does not slow down, because the problem is wide and deep.
In the remaining weeks, the holiday season looms on the horizon. While most people now have goblins, pumpkins and Halloween on their minds, there’s an urgent need right now to get food for families for Thanksgiving, then Christmas.
Children who live in households that are food insecure, even at the lowest levels, get sick more often, recover more slowly from illness, have poorer overall health and are hospitalized more frequently. Children and adolescents affected by food insecurity are more likely to be iron deficient, and pre-adolescent boys dealing with hunger issues have lower bone density. Early childhood malnutrition also is tied to conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life. § Lack of adequate healthy food can impair a child's ability to concentrate and perform well in school and is linked to higher levels of behavioral and emotional problems from preschool through adolescence. The new AAP policy statement, which is published in the journal Pediatrics, also recommends that pediatricians keep on hand a list of community resources, such as food banks. "Pediatricians can have this information at their fingertips" to share with their patients in need, Schwarzenberg says.