It might be hard not to be skeptical about hunger in our community -- until you look at the facts and see the invisible hungry people living among us.

For some it’s hard not to be skeptical about 58% of USD 490 children being eligible for free and reduced rate lunches. Or the data showing that 1 out of 5 children live with food insecurity in our community.

We’ve all seen or heard about people who seem to be abusing the system -- using their Kansas Vision card to buy junk food (a Vision Card is a plastic debit card that the Kansas Food Assistance program gives to eligible persons to purchase food at local grocery stores).

There will always be those who abuse programs intended to meet specific needs, and it isn’t always people living in poverty who do. There’s lots of examples of wealthy individuals and large corporations abusing loopholes, set asides, and subsidy programs. It's likely that the dollar amount of abuse by the wealthiest is far larger than that by the least.

Unfortunately, there is widespread hunger and food insecurity that is invisible to most of us - often because people are embarrassed and ashamed for anyone to know. 

Sometimes, perhaps, because we look away and don't see it. As a result, a lot of people only know about the stories of those who seem to abuse food assistance programs. But, as one writer asks:

"What do a police officer, a teacher, a rancher, and a second grader have in common? They all go hungry despite living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. In other words, people who live and work in our community. The food insecure households that you don’t know about."

The ranks of the invisible poor, non-traditional homeless, and the near homeless include honest and responsible folks who would prefer not to need a hand out include:

• The working poor who don’t bring home enough wages to pay all their bills, so they skimp on nutritious food in order to keep the heat on.

• Minimum wage earners living one illness or car disaster away from homelessness.

• White-collar workers laid off during the recent recession who struggle to live on unemployment income, especially older workers who encounter formidable barriers to getting another job.

• Formerly middle class households stripped of their hard-earned savings due to the death or disability of the primary wage earner.

• Elderly widows well beyond their working years depending on social security benefits under $800 month (having lost the benefit that their spouse was getting when alive).

• Young children whose parents can’t or won’t provide them with basic necessities for their growing brains and bodies to develop healthly - such as nutritiously adequate food.

Still skeptical?

Then watch the award-winning documentary film: A Place At the Table. It was produced to raise awareness about hunger in our communities and to inspire people to take action. To watch the movie trailer, CLICK HERE. 

So what can a caring community do?

Go to the Action Center, scroll down to enter your zip code, and check out the list of opportunities to end hunger in your community, such as:

• Take the “No Hungry Kid” pledge

• Garden in your back yard or at the Numana Community Gardens in El Dorado, and donate your surplus fruits and vegetables to local food pantries.

• Start a food drive to support local food pantries and the Kansas Food Bank.

• Volunteer with a Gleaning & Feeding program picking fruits and vegetables to be donated to food pantries..

• End food waste in your household, and advocate to end it in restaurants, grocery stores, and other places in our community.

• Spread awareness about food insecurity and advocate for solutions.

• Support school breakfast, lunch, and afterschool meal programs, and the summer meal program for kids: El Dorado LunchBox: Summer Meals for Kids.

• Contact Your Representatives about making ending hunger a priority.

• Host a screening party: Gather up friends to watch and discuss the film, "A Place at the Table."  

     - Go to iTunes to rent the film

     - To download the discussion guide: CLICK HERE

Share your suggestions by leaving a comment to this post.

Helping the hungry among us - Community Grace at its best!



A Place At the Table, Magnolia Pictures.

Hungry Americans get "A Place at the Table" in a new documentary, Reuters, March 1, 2013, ByAndrea Burzynski