Children in Southern Maryland should never have to go hungry
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://southernmarylandfoodbank.com to donate online or mail checks payable to The Southern Maryland Food Bank at 22 Irongate Drive, Waldorf, MD 20602.
Nicole Rye, Mechanicsville