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Food, wonderful food…

June 21st, 2013    •   No Comments    

They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Mark 8:8

The garden is going great guns!  If you haven’t tasted any of its fruits, well, you should change that.  Every Sunday fresh produce is available in the lobby, and all leftovers, plus produce harvested during the week, go to the ACTC and GEDCO food pantries.  Plus the Woodbrook Gardeners are now weighing the produce, and will report that to the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.  Stay tuned.

It may seem like a small effort, but it’s a great tool for learning about all kinds of issues—nutrition, conservation, pollution, environmentally friendly practices, hunger, food deserts, and more.  I’m hoping that by next spring we’ll be ready to open the garden to the community at large.

Hunger of course is a central issue.  It is universal.  Everyone gets hungry.  And acute hunger, of the kind most of us have not experienced, is far too common.  Even in Baltimore County, over 11.5% of the population are “food insecure.”  It’s almost 23% in Baltimore City.

An important way to combat that hunger and insecurity is through food pantries.  Most food pantries depend on local food banks, like the Maryland Food Bank.  And many food banks are part of a network with some 200 locations under the umbrella of Feeding America.  The network is the largest private provider of food in the nation.  But it’s clear that private efforts, even well-organized and efficient ones, are not enough.

Feeding America recently released its third annual “Map the Meal Gap” report analyzing data on food insecurity.  This report offers a snapshot of what hunger looks like in America at the state and county levels.  Fifty million individuals were food insecure in 2011, including over 16 million children.  On their website, you can find out much, much more in great detail.  Check out http://feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-studies/map-the-meal-gap.aspx.  Or do a search for “Map the Meal Gap.”

This year’s study includes data specifically on childhood hunger, a problem that continues to plague this country. In the United States, 16,658,000 children live in food insecure households. The state with the highest child food insecurity rate is New Mexico with 30.6%. The lowest is North Dakota with 10.2% of children living in hunger.  Maryland has a 19% rate of child food insecurity.  Children living with hunger can have long-term effects that affect their health, growth, and education.

This report highlights the need for strong, well-funded nutrition assistance programs. Soon the U.S. House of Representatives will vote again on the 2013 Farm Bill, which includes an estimated $21 billion cut over 10 years to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). SNAP is the single most important federal anti-hunger program.  Cutting the program at the level proposed could lead to 2 million people, mostly working families with children and senior citizens, being removed from the program. In addition, 210,000 low-income children could lose access to school lunch programs, often their single nutritious meal that day.  As the Map the Meal Gap study shows, now is the time to be strengthening anti-hunger programs, not reducing them.

I hope you will reach out to your Representative and ask him/her to protect SNAP in the Farm Bill.  And you can offer some fresh lettuce while you’re at it.  I’ll gladly let you have mine.

Grace and peace, Jamie

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