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Friday, August 19, 2011

Starving In Arkansas

As you know if you've read my blog long enough, my focus is often on food.  What to eat, what not to eat and sometimes just plain good food.  My daughter came home from youth group this week with a project that has changed my focus.  They are talking about poverty, extreme poverty, and the youth minister provided an excellent challenge for the youth to emphasize with those who live daily with poverty.    Over 7 days, the youth will sleep on the floor, wear the same clothes for 2 days, live a day with out any media, find their own transportation, beg for their lunch, eat only rice one day and finally, fast one day.  A pretty daunting task for these teens but no where near as daunting as facing these problems every single day of your life.

Our society is obsessed with food.  In America, 1/3 of the population is obese or overweight.  Food seems to be everywhere in abundance.  Therefore it is hard to believe that there are starving people in our own backyard, but there are.  I did a little research and learned that in 2009, 50 million Americans lived in food insecure households and that includes those most helpless to do anything about it - the elderly and children.    (A food insecure house is one where there is often not enough for everyone to eat.)  Worse, 5 states had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average between 2007 and 2009 and Arkansas was at the top.  Not Mississippi or Alabama or West Virginia.  Arkansas.  Nearly 25% of Arkansas' children don't know where their next meal will come from.  Most of those children come from single parent homes with the parent working.  I find it sad that Heifer International, a high profile non profit based here in Arkansas which works globally to help people rise above poverty, even has projects right here in their home state.

The government sets the poverty level for a family of four at $22,350 but a single mother with three children, working 40 hours a week at minimum wage only earns $15,080, considerably below the poverty level.  It shouldn't take a genius to realize that a hungry child won't learn as well, will suffer health and developmental issues and ultimately, won't be able to rise out of poverty.  As for the elderly, they may be too proud to ask for help and may be making tough choices between medicine, rent, utilities and food on social security wages.

Seems strange that we Americans should be busy helping other nations in times of crisis when we can not solve our own problems.  Rather we prefer to ignore them as much as possible.  Next week, I will take a look at hunger closer to home and give you some suggestions on how you can help.  After all, don't we want our younger generation to be strong, health productive citizens?  

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