In a nation that throws away a considerable amount of food (30-40% by some estimates), many still struggle with food insecurity. Portion sizes grow at restaurants, with enough food plated to provide at least two full meals at one ever-growing price (to meet profit margins, after all). The harsh reality is such luxuries are far out of reach for many, either due to costs or lack of transportation even to the closest grocery store or corner market.
Years ago, I came across the term “food desert.” Media often depicts a food desert located in an urban community, requiring a transit system to reach the corner store. At that rate, the breadwinner of the family can only purchase what she can carry and afford.
Food deserts exist in Appalachia, too. School is now officially out for summer in Washington and Smyth counties and beyond. Schools and communities address food insecurity for kids — many of whom receive free and reduced meals while in school. Backpack programs are partnerships between churches, communities and local schools, for which volunteers pack backpacks full of food so that kids can carry home shelf-stable food to get them through weekends. Summers and long breaks present real problems for our children. Yes, I mean “our children.”
The news is overflowing right now with definitions of children: the born, the unborn, migrant children, poor children, hungry children, spoiled children, privileged children, selfish children, brave children, self-sacrificing children, hopeful children and children who find ways to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. The point is that all of them — all of them — are our children! All of them hunger for food and for hope and for love.
Summer feeding programs exist in our communities. Contact Washington County Virginia Schools Child Nutrition Department at 276-739-3074 or 276-739-3030. You can even text “food” to 877-877 for meals near you. In Smyth County, find Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry at 141 S. Pine Street, Chilhowie, VA 24319, 276-646-9939.
Our elders, affected by declining health and reduced resources, are no longer able either to get to a store, to afford food or to grow food as many have done throughout their lives. According to Feeding America, 5 million Americans ages 50 and over endure hunger. Of senior households receiving services from Feeding America, 63% must choose between medical care and food. For many, the energy required to prepare meals is simply exhausting. Elders turn to canned and frozen meals, which often have high salt, sugar and fat, all of which may be detrimental for people with increasing health concerns.
In Washington County, Meals on Wheels is a valuable resource bringing food to homebound senior citizens. Locally, you can learn more by contacting the Community Center of Abingdon at 276-628-3911. The program needs your financial support in order to continue helping our neighbors affected by food insecurity. You can send a contribution to 300 Senior Drive, Abingdon, VA 24210 or you can use the “Donate” button on Facebook.
From a spiritual level, the good Lord Jesus knew that he had to feed a hungry belly in order to reach an aching soul. He took just a few fish and a couple of hunks of bread and made them feed a multitude of thousands. Our contributions of a few dollars can go a long way to reducing food insecurity for so many of our neighbors.