Wednesday, September 7, 2016
One sure-fire sign that the pace of economic recovery in the Mahoning Valley continues to crawl along at an anguishing slow pace can be seen in the widening scope and changing faces of hunger.
According to the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley, the region’s leading hunger-relief organization:
In 2015, the food bank’s member agencies provided a record 10.4 million pounds of food to Valley distributors and fulfilled 15,000 requests for emergency food assistance every week.
About 30,000 children in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties live at risk for hunger each day. That translates into 1 in 4 who may not know where their next meal is coming from, according to the Map the Meal Gap study of 2016.
Sixty-nine percent of us must choose between food and utility bill payments, and 66 percent must decide whether to buy food or pay for medical care, according to a study by Feeding America, the network of food banks across the country.
Many factors explain that dismal data. Ongoing unemployment, underemployment, low wages coupled with escalating costs of utilities, gasoline and food have forced many individuals and families who were once proudly self-supporting to urgently seek assistance to put food on their tables.
Second Harvest and its 153 member agencies in the Valley remain stuck in overdrive to adequately respond to the needs. Throughout September, the food bank focuses on restocking supplies, refilling its shelves and replenishing its treasury in a nationwide campaign known as Hunger Action Month.
WEAR ORANGE, EMPTY YOUR PLATES
We join Second Harvest in urging residents throughout the Valley to actively support Hunger Action Month. We can visibly show our support on Hunger Action Day, which is Thursday, by wearing orange, the color of the campaign that also connotes a stimulant to hunger.
We can, as Second Harvest urges all of us to do during this year’s observance, share what we couldn’t do without adequate nutrition by writing on an empty plate, “On an empty stomach I can’t ______,” and filling in the blank with something we couldn’t achieve without the nutrition we need to thrive. Because of the inextricable link between hunger and a vital, viable, healthy life, that list of blank-fillers could be endless. Then post photos of yourself in orange attire with your Hunger Action Day plate with #HungerActionMonth and @feedingAmerica. Then tag Second Harvest of the Valley on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SHFBMV/.
HUNGER, HEALTH LINK
This year’s plate campaign demonstrates clearly the strong link between hunger and health. An empty stomach, after all, can put a healthy life and a promising future in severe jeopardy.
“Having access to healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables is important for the population we serve, especially for senior citizens and children,” said Michal Iberis, executive director of SHFB of the Valley in a released statement on the 2016 Hunger Action campaign.
More importantly, all of us can recommit ourselves to making a concrete impact toward easing the pangs of hunger in our neighborhoods.
There are many ways to do so. Caring residents can organize a food drive, make a monetary donation to the SHFB or volunteer their time and effort at the organization’s sprawling warehouse and distribution site on Salt Springs Road in Youngstown.
Many will recall that a few years back, the Mahoning Valley came out No. 1 in the nation in an online drive that netted $1 million for hunger relief. Time and again, the Valley has galvanized its can-do spirit to help the needy all around us. This year’s call to action will require more than an online clicking frenzy, but we’re confident that given the compelling and growing need for hunger assistance, our Valley once again will display its benevolent and humanitarian character and answer the call to action.
The life-changing good works of Second Harvest throughout all 12 months of the year make it a charity for which all should seriously consider opening their cupboards, wallets and hearts to help.