Why do we have hungry neighbors in the United States of America? Many people think that hunger is only a problem in urban slums, war zones, refugee camps and third world countries.
One in eight or 12.5% of Americans do not have enough access to food. The term for this is food insecurity. They don't know if they will have enough, or anything, to eat tomorrow. Many of these people are children and seniors.
The USDA Economic Research Service estimates that 2.2 million, or 11.7%, of rural households nationwide are food insecure. That is a lot of hungry neighbors. These households include more than 12 million children. In Pennsylvania 15.8% of children experience food insecurity. During the school year many of these children receive free or reduced rate meals thru federal and state school lunch programs. There are not many programs available to Pocono children during the summer months.
Feeding America's recent study showed that 28.7 percent of senior households have had to choose between buying food or buying medicine. Thirty one percent has had to make a choice between buying food and paying for heat or other utilities.
The current recession is putting stress on the local supply of food. Donations are not keeping up with the increased demand. Emergency food assistance programs like Meals-on-Wheels and church and county run food pantries are struggling to keep up.
As gardeners, we are in a unique position to help. Food pantries do not receive much in the way of fresh produce. Many of them don't have a way to store it. Some pantries only distribute food once a month. Fresh vegetables won't keep for weeks while waiting to be distributed.
Gardeners with excess fruit and vegetables can donate to a local food pantry or soup kitchen where they can really use the help. We bring our excess produce in to our local food pantry the day before distribution. This gives pantry volunteers time to divide it into the assistance bags, but they do not have to find a place to store it. What can you do?
Gardeners who would like to participate in feeding America's Hungry Neighbors by planting an extra row in their backyard garden can receive a free packet of seeds from Ed Hume Seeds. They give away two to three thousand seed packets per year. Request yours through this link.
Food Pantries or other emergency food assistance programs may serve one town or an entire county. We have listed them by their primary region.
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