By Lana Turnbull
For many of us July 4th brings thoughts of picnics past, with all the traditional grilled favorites, plus baked beans, potato salad, fresh sweet corn on the cob, deviled eggs, watermelon, peach cobbler…the list is embarrassingly long. But the truth is, there are 48.8 million Americans who do not have enough to eat and 16.2 million of them are children. In Mississippi one in every four people struggles with hunger. For these families summer can mean even more stress on food budgets, as kids are out of school and the lunch programs that are a lifeline during the school year are suspended.
Some of the highest profile food drives typically are held in advance of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, but by summer the supply of food donated for food banks is dangerously low. That’s where we can make a difference. By organizing our friends, neighbors, churches and civic groups, we can help restock the shelves of local food banks and put food back on Mississippi tables.
One place to start is with the Mississippi Food Network (MFN). This network of local food banks across the state distributes more than 15 million meals each year. Besides donations from individuals, MFN could not exist without the help of local farmers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food manufacturers, restaurants and grocery stores. But, they need more than contributions of food. They also need volunteers to help with organization and distribution of the donations and financial contributions for operating costs and supplies. There are plenty of ways to get involved and make a difference to help reduce food insecurity in Mississippi, starting now.
The idea that one out of four people in our state goes to bed hungry is startling and brings to mind an age-old question. Am I my brother’s keeper? It’s a hard one to answer if we are really honest with ourselves. There are many factors that can lead to food insecurity, some that are beyond a person’s control and some that are not, but whatever the circumstances that leave a family in this situation, Mississippi children should not be going hungry. As individuals we may not be able to wipe out food insecurity overnight, but our contributions of time, food, or dollars can go a long way toward making sure fewer kids go to bed hungry.
For more information visit www.msfoodnet.org.