Living On Empty
By Sandi Krecioch
The ordinary household is extremely busy these days. We sprint to and from appointments and work, sometimes barely speaking to one another. Maybe we snatch an energy bar while flying out the door. Perhaps it’s a piece of fruit or a muffin. Whatever the selection, it’s always there for our grabbing as we scurry about.
Sometimes we sit down with the entire family and have a nutritious meal while sharing the day’s activities with one another. Sitting around the table, our senses take in the aromas of the victuals to be consumed. Once we’re done eating, we usually sit back—pleasantly full. Or most of the time—overly full.
How about planning that special party? We go to the grocery store, bakery or butcher to get the special foods we’re going to prepare and enjoy with our friends and family.
In any of the above scenes, you’d think that this is commonplace. Right? Well, if you’ve answered “yes,” it’s time to re-think the above scenarios.
Commonplace it is not. Americans are struggling with hunger. Food is not always part of their day-today vocabulary. Yes, we’ve all been hungry at times. But, what’s the true definition of hunger? We all have an idea, I’m sure. According to Merriam-Webster, hunger is…“a craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient; an uneasy sensation occasioned by the lack of food; a weakened condition brought about by prolonged lack of food.”
Food is life’s sustenance. We need to eat to maintain our strength. You may think or believe that those that are truly hungry and starving only live in Third World Nations, but sadly, it’s happening right here in the United States of America. However we personally think of hunger, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are an estimated 17.4 million American families that are “food insecure.” That’s almost a 30% increase since 2006. Our nation’s people are starving and are forced to miss meals and sometimes unable to seek assistance. They are out of jobs, money, medication and food.
What’s really sad, is that at least 36% of households in Western North Carolina cannot relate to even one of the above three food-related scenarios. These people are seeking emergency food assistance. They’re hungry and it’s an everyday struggle to put food on their tables. Even with at least one employed adult per household, these people are finding it extremely hard to make ends meet let alone provide nutritional meals each and every day.
Even though some individuals may eat three meals a day, many are malnourished due to poor food choices. Adults and children are eating fatty, sugary and cheap foods. This leads to early health problems, obesity and eventually early death.
America’s children are tomorrow’s future. If they aren’t healthy to carry on, then who can? Vital growth and development can be achieved through proper nutrition. It’s up to each and every one of us to make sure that a young person has the ability and strength to learn. Hunger causes poor performance and inability to learn and retain.
Each and every day, people have to make tough choices between food, rent, health care, gas for the car and other necessities. Many are choosing between feeding their children and going without meals for themselves.
MANNA FoodBank a private, not-forprofit service organization, founded in 1982, links the food industry with 231 partner agencies in 16 counties of Western North Carolina. They collect, store, warehouse and distribute food to accredited non-profits throughout WNC. MANNA distributed 8.2 million pounds of food in 2009, enough food to provide 18,721 meals, 365 days a year.
In a single year, 106,600 individuals seek food assistance from emergency food programs served by MANNA. That’s 1 in 6 of our WNC neighbors. Of those needing assistance, 33,000 are children and 9,600 elderly. The percentage of households facing hunger is staggering—75% without children and 84% with children.
MANNA provides direct service on a very limited basis to those struggling with hunger through their MANNA Packs for Kids Program and Food due to the tremendous volunteer turnout. Over 700 volunteers—from church groups, Rotary groups, youth groups and schools—helped to make this event a huge success. Let’s Stamp Outreach. The MANNA Packs for Kids Program provides children with a 5-pound bag of supplemental food items. More than 4,100 bags of food have helped children in need. These packs are distributed each Friday when school is in session.
Children aren’t the only ones suffering. Tragically, many of our seniors have to choose between food and medication. Many are also without the general necessities of life, e.g., utilities, transportation and clothing. The Baby Boomer generation is living longer than past generations. They are entering retirement, yet it’s uncertain if the majority of them have planned ahead for their senescence.
Okay, so what would compel you to help or donate to the cause of hunger? Would it be because you see a plea on television? The news? Hear it on the radio? Maybe a friend or even someone in your own family is in need. Whatever your answer, this is a predicament that needs to be addressed now—not later.
Want to make a difference? It’s so easy. Here’s what you can do.
As in past years, Rotarians Against Hunger (RAH) have joined with Rotary Clubs across Western North Carolina—in conjunction with Kids Against Hunger, Mission Healthcare Foundation and MANNA FoodBank—to combat the hunger crisis. Since 2010, RAH projects, involving hundreds of donors and volunteers, have raised over $100,000 in donations and packaged over 700,000 meals. The greater amount of the packaged food (70%) will go to MANNA FoodBank to be distributed throughout Western North Carolina. The remainder (30%) will head overseas, where some 55 million children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition.
Last year, we were able to exceed our goal and packaged 311,000 meals due to the tremendous volunteer turnout. Over 700 volunteers—from church groups, Rotary groups, youth groups and schools—helped to make this event a huge success. Let’s exceed our goal again!
Jonas Gerard, one of Asheville’s best known artists, has been an enthusiastic contributor to this event in the past and will again contribute artwork this year to support the event.
To donate and/or signup for a volunteer packaging shift, please visit: www.RotariansAgainstHunger.org You may also text: “RAH” to the number 85944.
Sandi Krecioch is an advocate of Asheville Rotary Club; sings with Womansong of Asheville; volunteers with Paws on a Mission (providing unconditional love through pet therapy); attends wine tastings; plays tennis; and freelances in copyediting and creative writing. Born in Los Angeles, she lived the crazy life as an analyst/negotiator for the City of L.A. After an 11-year detour in Florida as a literacy consultant, she’s thrilled to have settled in Asheville with her husband, two rescue dogs and a rescue cat. She can be reached at email@example.com.