We don't have to accept child hunger

The United Way of Southwest Louisiana’s initiative to not only focus attention on child hunger in our corner of the state,

but do something about it should be like a cold pale of water to the face.

The agency announced last week a food drive for this month to provide 2,000 ‘‘weekend food packs’’ for area children.

According to Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana, more than one in five children under the age of

18 in Louisiana are classified as daily facing food insecurity, defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as

“consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.’’

‘‘You can throw all the stats at

someone about the problems the children in this area face, but seeing it

and getting involved

is something completely different,’’ said Melissa Hill, United Way

of Southwest Louisiana’s marketing and event coordinator.

In realistic terms, it’s school

children who qualify for free breakfasts eating food from their trays

before they reach the

table in their school cafeteria on Monday morning. It’s

pre-schoolers who know on a first name basis Pearl Cole, the executive

director of Abraham’s Tent, which serves up to 300 meals daily to

the hungry in our area. It’s students who politely ask for

seconds or save an apple or orange off their plate for a

nourishing snack later in the day.

How insidious is child hunger?

Proper nutrition is vital in establishing and maintaining a good foundation for a child’s future physical and mental health,

academic achievement and economic productivity, according to Second Harvest.

Insufficient nutrition raises

children’s risk of illness and weakens their immune system. According to

Second Harvest, children

from food-insecure families are 90 percent more likely to be in

fair or poor health and have 30 percent higher rates of hospitalization.

According to a study, children from

food-insecure low-income households were more likely to experience

irritability, fatigue

and difficulty concentrating compared to their peers. That led

grade failure, anxiety, poor math skills and difficulty interacting

with other children, the study found.

Food insecurity stunts children’s development, affecting movement, speech and behavior.

Poor nutrition affects academic development. Put simply, a hungry child has difficulty learning.

How, then, can individuals, companies, churches and organizations fight back?

Awareness is the first step in solving any problem. The United Way of Southwest Louisiana’s campaign acknowledges the issue.

The organization is seeking

nonperishable food that does not need to be refrigerated nor needs a can

opener or any type of

heating from a microwave or stove. It’s asking for pop-top meals

that don’t have to be cooked liked spaghetti and meatballs

and macaroni and cheese, beef jerky, peanut butter crackers,

individually boxed cereal, individually packed snacks like graham

crackers and juice boxes.

As a caring community, we don’t have to accept the reality of hungry children in our corner of the state. Accepting the United

Way of Southwest Louisiana’s challenge is the first step in eradicating the problem.