The Holidays, Hunger and the Health of Our Community

The holidays are a time when many celebrate with traditional foods and special meals. However, as we enter the 2013 holiday season, more than ever people in our community will be challenged to have a meal at all, much less a holiday feast.

During this time of year — so often illustrated with the faces of happy children — we know that one in five children in our region is at risk of going to bed hungry tonight.

Harvesters —The Community Food Network, the regional Feeding America food bank serving northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas, feeds as many as 66,000 individuals each week. Harvesters’ network of more than 620 nonprofit agencies is providing 2.9 million meals each month to families, children and seniors at risk of not having enough to eat. As you can see, hunger is still a huge issue impacting the health and wellness of our community.

We know from information provided by Hunger in America 2010, the most comprehensive study of hunger ever undertaken, that more than two-thirds (67%) of the households receiving food assistance from Harvesters have annual incomes at or below the poverty level. About 25 percent of households that Harvesters serves have at least one member in poor health; 31 percent have no health coverage; and 53 percent report they have unpaid medical bills. Finally, 30 percent have had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care.

Poor nutrition puts those we serve at higher risk for chronic diseases, and most are without adequate resources to overcome them.

Harvesters is uniquely situated to help those we serve change their thinking and behavior patterns. Our programs target the underserved communities in the neighborhoods in which they live, in community centers, low-income housing complexes, schools, libraries and at religious facilities.

Evaluations of our nutrition education and healthy eating programs indicate these programs are improving the overall health and quality of life for participants. A 2012 study by Generations United confirmed this, finding that “adequate nutrition helps children and youth concentrate in class, improves their memory and overall behavior, and leads to better health and fewer visits to the doctor. For older adults, access to good nutrition also improves memory, helps maintain healthy physical activity, and reduces the number of trips to the doctor.”

Harvesters is committed to providing consistent access to the nutritious food that is needed by those we serve. We are grateful to the individuals, corporations, foundations and organizations in our community who share our mission to feed hungry people today and work to end hunger tomorrow.

With the holidays upon us, Harvesters is depending on our community for gifts of food, time, money and voice, because working together is the only way to address an issue this big.


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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.

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