Last Modified: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 2:08 PM
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.