Chil­dren in South­ern Mary­land should never have to go hun­gry

The Enterprise - - Community Forum -

What does hunger mean to you? For many peo­ple, it means you can’t wait to get home from a busy day at work or school so that you can grab a quick snack or sit down for a meal.

For many peo­ple liv­ing in South­ern Mary­land, though, hunger is con­stant. They ei­ther don’t have ac­cess to enough food, or in some cases do not have any food at all. Much like feel­ing safe and hav­ing ad­e­quate shel­ter, hav­ing enough food is a ba­sic hu­man need.

Many peo­ple in Mary­land and across our coun­try suf­fer from hunger ev­ery day. One in ev­ery six Amer­i­cans face hunger. In re­cent years, the term food in­se­cu­rity has been used by the U.S. De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture to de­fine the lack of ac­cess, at times, to enough food for all household mem­bers. Ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land Food Bank, more than 205,000 chil­dren are at risk of hunger daily in Mary­land — that’s one in ev­ery seven. Across Amer­ica, one in ev­ery five chil­dren are at risk of be­ing hun­gry. In the African-Amer­i­can and Latino com­mu­ni­ties, it’s one in ev­ery three chil­dren. Homes with chil­dren re­port a sub­stan­tially higher food in­se­cu­rity rate than homes with­out.

There are more than 9,000 hun­gry chil­dren in St. Mary’s, 17,000 in Charles and 6,000 in Calvert. Ac­cord­ing to re­cent news re­ports, Mary­land is one of the wealth­i­est states in the coun­try, and the three South­ern Mary­land coun­ties are within the top 10 wealth­i­est coun­ties in Mary­land. This is dis­heart­en­ing, but it doesn’t have to be. For those of us who can’t even be­gin to imag­ine what it’s like to not be able to sa­ti­ate our hunger, we can make a dif­fer­ence.

The Mary­land Food Bank’s web­site notes “child hunger weak­ens the in­fra­struc­ture of our so­ci­ety, limiting the aca­demic, so­cial and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment from one gen­er­a­tion to an­other.”

Toxic stress, which can be caused by food in­se­cu­rity, can al­ter the brain ar­chi­tec­ture and chem­istry in chil­dren. In a 2012 study at Drexel Univer­sity, it was sug­gested that “ex­pe­ri­ences with toxic stress may be the key to what fu­els child food in­se­cu­rity across gen­er­a­tions.” It also the­o­rized that “food in­se­cu­rity is not a sin­gu­lar event in time, but rather a se­ries of events that have a rip­ple ef­fect into adult­hood.”

Chil­dren liv­ing with se­vere hunger also tend to have more sig­nif­i­cant men­tal health is­sues. Across the United States, more than 13 mil­lion chil­dren go to school hun­gry, which can lead to an in­abil­ity to con­cen­trate on lessons and a higher risk of fall­ing be­hind their peers aca­dem­i­cally.

To com­bat the ef­fects of child food in­se­cu­rity, free and re­duced-price lunches are pro­vided to more than 22 mil­lion chil­dren at school. Of these chil­dren, more than half, about 56 per­cent, rely on free or re­duced-price break­fast as well. When school is not in ses­sion, these chil­dren do not have ac­cess to the break­fast and lunch pro­grams. Dur­ing the hol­i­day months, this could mean up to 16 days that chil­dren have a lack of ac­cess to food.

I en­cour­age you to do­nate to the South­ern Mary­land Food Bank this hol­i­day sea­son to en­sure our lo­cal pantries have the re­sources avail­able to meet the needs of fam­i­lies. With ev­ery dol­lar do­nated, the South­ern Mary­land Food Bank can pur­chase 8 pounds of food for their pantry. To­gether we can re­duce the in­ci­dences of food in­se­cu­rity in our com­mu­nity. Visit http://south­ern­mary­land­food­ to do­nate on­line or mail checks payable to The South­ern Mary­land Food Bank at 22 Iron­gate Drive, Wal­dorf, MD 20602.

Ni­cole Rye, Me­chan­icsville

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