Raising awareness is only one task of Kaua‘i Food Bank

Yesterday was National Hunger Awareness Day — but that doesn’t mean we can’t think about it today. The hunger crisis is a global issue, a national issue, and an island issue.

Judy Lenthall of Kaua‘i’s Food Bank climbs the challenge every day when the staff and volunteers set out to distribute 97,044 pounds of food to 7,000 individuals (keiki to kupuna) monthly.

National Hunger Awareness Day, organized by the Foodbank network of America’s Second Harvest non-profit, is in its sixth year. “The day serves as a platform for domestic hunger-relief organizations to raise awareness about hunger in America. Our theme this year is ‘The Face of Hunger will surprise you,’” states The Second Harvest Web site.

Those “faces” are children, elderly and working people in our communities that can’t afford to provide for their families. According to a 2005 USDA report on Household Security, an estimated 12.4 million children lived in food insecure households in 2005.

“Although each organization working on the issue of domestic hunger approaches the issue from a slightly different position, Hunger Awareness Day gives us the opportunity to gather our resources, supporters, and voices in focusing the nation’s attention on one of the most solvable problems facing every community in America,” states the Second Harvest Web site.

On Kaua‘i, hunger is a reality for many island residents. With the high cost of living many families struggle to make ends meet.

But our community is not alone. According to the USDA an estimated 35.1 million Americans are food insecure (low food security and very low food security); meaning their access to enough food is limited by a lack of money and other resources.

“41.5 percent of all client households served by the America’s Second Harvest Network reported having to choose between buying food and paying for utilities or heat within the previous 12 months,” states the organization’s Web site.

Increasing awareness that domestic hunger is a real and growing problem will help ensure that there are enough resources to feed hungry Americans.

Nearly 70 Kaua‘i service organizations help at the Kaua‘i Food Bank, and many more individuals volunteer, yet Lenthall encourages anyone to donate food, time or money and support the island ‘ohana.

“With every dollar contributed, we can distribute $7 worth of groceries,” states the KFB Web site.

Born under tragic circumstances, post-Hurricane Iniki, the food bank was formally established in 1994, and is a member of America’s Second Harvest Network.

The America’s Second Harvest Network is the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the United States. Founded in 1979, America’s Second Harvest distributed 2.5 million pounds of food to a Network of 13 food banks in its first year of operation.

Today, the national network secures and distributes nearly 2 billion pounds of food and grocery products each year to more than 200 member food banks and food-rescue organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, states the organization’s Web site.

According to “Hunger in America,” a report published by Second Harvest, more than one-third (35 percent) of food bank client households reported having to choose between paying for food and paying their rent or mortgage; nearly one-third (31.6 percent) of client households reported having to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care; and according to the USDA, 6 percent of households with seniors (1.6 million households) were food insecure (low food security and very low food security).

For more information visit www.kauaifoodbank.org, learn about their activities and take the “Hunger 101” role-play challenge — an interactive program that illustrates the challenges faced by many in our community. Or go to www.hungerday.org, the official Web site of the day of awareness and Second Harvest. At www.foodforce.com, try an online interactive game developed by The World Food Program, www.wfp.org.

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