No Child Left Behind?

We welcome back Elisa Zaehringer to Poverty’s Edge, Elisa is one of the Planners at CACLV and former Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator for the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania.  Thanks for the post!

A perfect storm formed by the combination of a prolonged recession, a national unemployment rate stuck at nine percent, and rising food and fuel costs has left an estimated 49 million Americans living with food insecurity.  Second Harvest has seen a 51% increase in the number of people seeking food assistance through its network of more than 200 member agencies since 2007.  

In America, a staggering 21.6% of children (one in every five) live in food insecure households.  Approximately 36% of the people served through Second Harvest’s network are children. This means that one of your neighbors, your children’s friends, or even your own child may not know where his or her dinner will come from tonight.

In response to these numbers, Second Harvest Food Bank runs the BackPack Buddies program, a kid-friendly, supplemental nutrition program that helps low-income children have access to food on the weekends and holidays when school is not in session.  For these children, weekends could often mean going hungry were it not for Backpack Buddies. The program is currently administered by 15 SHFB member agencies that offer year-round after-school programs serving 300 children in Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton.   Children receive backpacks containing cereal, peanut butter, canned vegetables and fruit, soup, macaroni and cheese, canned one-dish meals, and healthy snacks.

Food insecurity is often a faceless struggle.  It is easy for us to think that hunger is a problem that exists “over there.”  However, hunger and, regrettably, child hunger is closer than you think.  It exists right here in the Lehigh Valley, right in our own backyards.  But there is hope.

You can make a difference by focusing on the 21.6 percent and doing a few simple things in your local community.

  • Organize a food drive to the Second Harvest Food Bank of the LehighValley and Northeast Pennsylvania.
  • Make a donation.
  • Contact your local members of Congress and voice your support for programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which help provide access to nutritious food for those in need.

Child hunger in America is a solvable issue. Programs like Second Harvest’s BackPack Program, which puts nutritious food directly into the hands of children in need for weekends and school vacations, are making a difference in the lives of children every day. Feeding America has partnered with C & S Wholesale Grocers on a “Pack ‘till Their Back” campaign to raise awareness about childhood hunger throughout the month of November. With your help, programs like this can be expanded to make sure that the 21.6 percent aren’t left behind.

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