Welcome to the second installment of Weekly Harvest! We hope you are as excited about this blog as we are! Last week we spoke about the history of Second Harvest and how we operate. Today, we’re going to talk about hunger in America and our community.
Despite the fact that we are the world’s greatest food-producing nation, we have a big food insecurity problem. Food insecurity is the inability to provide all members of a household enough food to be healthy and active. This includes having access to fresh produce and foods high in nutrition.
Over 37 million people in the U.S. are struggling with hunger right now. That is one in nine people, and one in every seven children. In Ohio, that number is 1.5 million, and one in every five children. Families are particularly affected, as 40% of Ohio households who receive SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) have children. Out of Ohio’s 88 counties, there is not one county or congressional district in Ohio free of hunger. Last year, Ohio had a projected rate of food insecurity of up to 19%.
As one of only 12 Feeding America food banks in the state of Ohio, Second Harvest is proud to serve the communities of Clark, Champaign, and Logan counties. These three counties have a combined population of 219,396 people. Logan and Champaign counties are considered rural communities. Hunger is more common in rural areas due to challenges such as longer distances to the nearest grocery store or food pantry, and higher rates of unemployment/underemployment. Seniors are another group of people vulnerable to hunger — almost 5.3 million senior citizens face food insecurity. In Clark, Champaign, and Logan counties, at least 17% of the population are individuals 65 years old and over.
Hunger is on the rise in America, and it can affect anyone. Many Americans are simply one unexpected bill away from being food insecure. Hunger can have a dangerous effect on health, especially if you are forced to choose between buying food and paying for healthcare. Hunger also has many side effects, particularly among children. Kids who don’t receive enough to eat are more likely to repeat a grade in elementary school, struggle with language and motor skills, and develop social and behavioral problems. That’s why Second Harvest has programs that specifically serve children: the Backpack Program and Summer Food Service Program.
Of course, we know the COVID-19 pandemic has strained the finances of people from all walks of life. Those considered high risk from the virus — seniors, people with chronic illnesses, and people of color — are the same people who have been impacted most by COVID’s economic downturn. Unemployment rates soared in 2020, meaning people who have never needed food assistance before are now accessing food banks for the first time. With this spike in demand, along with the declines in donations and loss of volunteers, food banks are struggling to keep up. Here at Second Harvest, we are determined to continue uplifting our community through these difficult times. It is vital, now more than ever, that we have your continued support. Thank you for all your help!
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