WASHINGTON – The largest domestic charitable hunger and relief organization this week released the first reference guide to national and state facts on hunger and poverty.
The 694-page Almanac of Hunger and Poverty in America 2006 was released Tuesday,National Hunger Awareness Day,which America's Second Harvest-The Nation's Food Bank Network observes on the first Tuesday of June.
“The reason we have National Hunger Awareness Day in June is because we feed a lot of children,more than 9 million a year. Many of these children qualify for school lunch programs,but some of these programs end in June,” Ross Fraser,an America's Second Harvest spokesman,said. “Now is when there is such a big demand for food in the summer months.”
But rising gas prices have affected food bank operations.
“Our goal is to end hunger in America and to make sure that people have access to food and food programs,” Fraser said. “Our biggest concern is transportation,refrigeration and fuel costs.”
The almanac says,“The America's Second Harvest Network spends millions of dollars on interstate transportation each year. The cost of transportation often prohibits food banks and food-rescue organizations from being able to accept a food donation.”
The almanac has five sections that feature information about America's Second Harvest,federal nutrition programs,national and state statistics on hunger,and details about every food bank in the country. Food banks collect and store surplus food and distribute it directly to needy clients or to other non-profit agencies.
The almanac ranks the states on what it calls “food insecurity,” which means the number of people who don't have enough of the right kinds of foods to lead “an active,healthy life.” The rankings are closely related to poverty rates.
The states with the worst food insecurity are Texas,Mississippi,New Mexico and Oklahoma,according to the almanac.
States with the best rankings are North Dakota,New Hampshire,Delaware,Massachusetts and Minnesota.
Ending hunger is not an easy task,but America's Second Harvest,which consists of 200 food banks across the country,believes that the first step to solving this problem is to understand it. A study released in February showed that over the past nine years the number of people helped by food banks has increased 18 percent. Food banks helped feed 25.3 million people last year.
The Hunger in America 2006 study found that children and senior citizens are most vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition.
“Research indicates that even mild under nutrition experienced by young children during critical periods of growth may lead to reductions in physical growth and affect brain development,” the report says.
Fraser said the face of hunger in America is surprising. At least 12 percent of the people America's Second Harvest Network feeds are homeless,and 51 percent of all recipient households reported incomes of less than $10,000 in the previous year. More than 40 percent of the people that the network feeds live in the suburbs and rural areas.