If you think hunger doesn’t happen in our community, think again. The idea that hunger is a foreign problem is just one of several existing myths about hunger in our community. Here are 3 common myths about hunger, along with the truth:
Truth: Hunger exists locally, and it exists to a greater degree than you might expect. In fact, 82,000 households in Maricopa County alone struggle to put food on the table every day. The most severely impacted by chronic hunger are people who need nutritious meals the most: children, pregnant women and seniors. You can read more facts, along with specific stories of everyday people impacted by hunger, in the UNITE to End Hunger plan.
Truth: Nearly half of the 82,000 food-insecure households in Maricopa County include children, with 1 in 4 children living in poverty. Families stretching their resources to cover housing, transportation, child care, food and medical needs, may find themselves looking at what is the lowest cost food available, versus the most nutritious. The healthiest, freshest food is rarely the cheapest or most accessible. The lowest price tags are usually on high-carb, processed, ready-to-eat foods. Because of this, hunger and obesity too often go hand-in-hand.
Truth: SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, provides millions of homes around the nation with monthly food assistance. Most households that utilize supplemental programs like SNAP include senior citizens and people with disabilities –people who are often not able to work. The average length of time a person stays on the program is nine months, debunking the myth that individuals “permanently live off” food stamps. SNAP also serves as a responsive federal program to assist families and communities during economic downturns. With the extended duration of unemployment, it’s a valuable support mechanism to keep families from experiencing chronic hunger. It also contributes to economic recovery: every $1.00 increase in SNAP benefits generates about $1.70 in economic activity.
Now that you know the truth behind these common myths, what can you do to help?
Get involved! Volunteer at local schools, senior centers and community centers. Familiarize yourself with your neighbors and community members who struggle with chronic hunger. You can check on a neighbor and offer a ride to the grocery store, or host a potluck dinner -- there are so many simple ways to extend a hand up. Sign up to volunteer.
Be heard! In October, all SNAP participants will be affected by a reduction. Add your voice to the cause and let your Congressional Representatives know where you stand on the issue. Contact your Representative here. Like any big problem, the solution starts one caring person at a time. Get involved, be educated, spread the word and change a life.
Amy Schwabenlender is Vice President of Community Impact for Valley of the Sun United Way. She leads United Way’s Community Objective to End Hunger and Homelessness in Maricopa County and serves on a variety of community boards including the Maricopa County Continuum of Care.