Community Support Systems offered a training on hunger to their volunteers today. Amanda Melara, who works for Capital area food bank, was the trainer. She imparted some useful information to us.
“Food insecurity” is not knowing where your next nutritious meal is coming from. There is no national measurement. USDA decided not to measure it. Poverty was defined in the 1960s, based on an average household size. 1/3 of income went toward food. Minimum caloric needs were established. It’s still based on those statistics. Geography is not taken into consideration. A new program, not yet implemented, takes transportation & other things into consideration.
Severe malnutrition is very rare in the U.S. Close to 50 million people are in poverty but only 10% are homeless (5% in this area). Drugs & alcohol are not usually the problem. People who don’t have substantial shelter without electricity or water or plumbing are defined as homeless. Food deserts (no stores in area) or food swamps (only junk food available) are new terms.
Mental illness & incarceration interact with food & nutrition – one can cause the other.
At 0-3 yrs. of age is an important development time – food swamps & deserts are stressors on their body that last a lifetime. Lack of concentration, behavior, bad grades, etc are results of hunger. Older adults have increased diabetes as one consequence of poor nutrition. People often choose between food or medicine.
Statistic about what hunger costs show that the nation spends $167.5 billion on remedial care due to hunger.
We played a game to experience what it might be like to be hungry as we were each given a biography and scenario for a hungry individual who needed to get food. The exercise helped us to learn:
Government forms and how to find available resources is difficult to understand for well-educated people and almost impossible for less educated or people with poor English skills due to being from another country & other issues. Processing time for government assistance is 30-60 days or more even if it’s called an emergency program. Workers are often mean. Long lines often take all day. Some people feel it’s not worth it. The food bank is open few hours and people don’t always know where to go and when it’s open. Stores in poverty areas often don’t have enough nutritious food & it’s more expensive.
Average food stamps (SNAP) is ~$1.40 per person per meal and doesn’t include cleaning products, transportation costs, and other needs. Recipients need freezers and/or refrigerators and cooking facilities and may not be given food if they don’t have them.
Homeless people are often asked where they live to get assistance. Homeless facilities are now helping to give them an address.
The Food Equity Council in Prince George’s County is working on the issue of ending hunger & providing access to nutritious food. Coordination of services is a big issue they’re working on. FRAC is national advocacy group. The governor is working on child hunger (state site on ending hunger here).
CSS not only has 2 food pantries, but provides advocacy for individuals to get the resources they need. They have the most up-to-date list of resources, though they do change. Other food pantries or advocacy groups don’t always have this information or it’s out of date.
Over two dozen people attended this training at the Chapel of the Incarnation in Brandywine. We are fortunate to have this caring organization in our town and so many caring people to help.