The Fight For Food Security

By Barb Hickey

September was Hunger Action Month.  Although hunger is a year-round problem, during September,  Americans focus on the challenge of feeding hungry people in the world’s greatest food-producing nation.  42 million people struggle with hunger in our country, including 13 million children and 5.4 million seniors, and the hungry live beside us, within each of our communities.

Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry meets the challenges of hunger in 13 zip codes in our area.  During 2016, the Pantry provided 898,617 pounds of emergency food, serving 15,803 households and 50,044 individuals.  During Hunger Action Month, we are reaching out to the community to increase understanding of who the hungry are, and how all of us can help.

When we look at the problem of hunger, most people believe that poverty causes food insecurity, but the facts suggest a more complex picture:  the poor are not always hungry, and the hungry are not always poor.  According to “Feeding America” statistics, 26% of individuals considered food insecure live in households that earn incomes above 185% of the poverty line, which makes them ineligible for most federal nutrition assistance.  For many of these individuals, food insecurity is a fact of life, and places like the Pantry can make a crucial difference.

Food insecurity is defined as a lack of consistent access to enough food for a healthy, active life.  Within the OPRF Food Pantry service area, 10 of our 13 zip codes have food insecurity rates over 10%, and within Austin, the rate tops 36%.  Nationally, households with higher rates of food insecurity include those with children (17%), especially households headed by single women (30%) or single men, (22%), black households (22%) or Hispanic households (19%) .

The OPRF Food Pantry helps address the challenges of hunger and food insecurity every day, often by helping those in our communities whose incomes are too low to combat food insecurity, but too high to qualify for federal assistance.  For these clients, the Pantry is a crucial lifeline, and the generosity of our donors and volunteers makes a tremendous difference.

During Hunger Action Month, we are all challenged to do what we can to help the hungry and food insecure in our neighborhoods and in our nation.  And our community rose to the challenge.  Action events were well attended, donations made, volunteer shifts filled.  THANK YOU to everyone who took action this month, big or small. 

In these challenging times, so many in our communities and in our nation need a helping hand.  We hope you will join us in working, not only in September, but all year long, in making a difference to our neighbors in need.