Those in our community who struggle with hunger aren’t always who you think they are. That’s something we say a lot at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, and we see the evidence all around us.
“Hunger in America 2014,” a new study released by Feeding America, shows that 46.5 million people in the U.S are served each year by its nationwide network of 200 food banks, including the Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB). Those served include 12 million children and 7 million seniors. That comes out to 1 in 7 Americans who turn to food banks each year for assistance.
For ACFB, the report shows more than 755,000 clients a year rely on our 600+ partner agencies for food assistance across our 29-county service area. These are families who are working, but just can’t make ends meet. These are folks who are struggling with medical issues and have to choose between a doctor’s visit or prescriptions and the food they’ll eat that night. These are our neighbors, who are having to decide if they’ll pay the electric bill or buy food.
The study shows that, each year, about 76 percent of the people served by the Food Bank have to choose between paying for food or utilities. A full 79 percent of households surveyed reported using multiple strategies for getting enough food, including eating food past its expiration date, watering down food or drinks and pawning or selling personal property. That’s a lot of energy and time spent on trying to cover the basic need of getting enough food to eat.
Food, A Transformative Tool
Many of us disagree on the causes of hunger, but we can all agree that we want a prosperous economy, a strong workforce and a good education system for our kids.
So, I would say, that if we truly want to prepare our future workforce, build into our kids the muscle they need to succeed in life and nurture a community that fosters growth and prosperity – then we need to feed people.
Food is not only a basic need, but a transformational tool to bring communities together to create, grow and develop a healthy place to live, work, succeed and enjoy.
Not having enough food is a distraction that keeps people from doing the things they need to do to get up on their feet and stay there. If they can’t get basic needs met adequately, then they aren’t going to have enough time to work on the things that could truly better and improve their lives in lasting ways.
So food is that tool. Improving access to food is the key to helping the larger community succeed and prosper. And helping get more food into the hands of those that need it truly makes a measurable, visible difference. Not just in the lives of those who feel fed, but in the fabric of our neighborhoods, schools, municipalities, governments, leadership and overall community.
In fact, hunger is an issue, unlike others, that collaboration and collective effort can truly change and even fix. This is an issue that we here at the Food Bank see progress around every day and an issue where a community can come together and make a real difference.
I urge you to take a look at the ways that you can help improve food access throughout metro Atlanta. Support your local food pantry, come volunteer with us, make a donation and help raise the awareness that having enough food truly matters.
Coming together as a community, we can get people fed and we can look forward to seeing the progress that comes when hunger ends.
--Bill Bolling, Executive Director
This letter was published in our Winter 2014 issue of Foodsharing, our quarterly print newsletter. To read more or subscribe, please visit our Newsletters page.