How many times have you opened the cupboards in your kitchen or the doors on your refrigerator only to stare at the contents bleakly and declare, “There’s nothing to eat here.” I am guilty of this all too often, although I admit to a penchant for hyperbole.
My eyes slide past the pasta, the bags of rice, the milk, the vegetables in the fridge, the 438 different spices in the spice rack (see? Hyperbole), the cans of tuna or soup. The oatmeal. The everything. The bounty that lives in my kitchen and pantry. Occasionally, I must stop myself and say out loud, “We are fortunate. We have plenty, and we never go to bed hungry.”
There are people in this country—all too many of them—who do go to bed hungry. Who, when they say “We have no food,” say so in earnest. Who have to tell their kids that there is nothing, and who send those kids to school to get what might be the only food they get to eat for the week.
I know there has been a lot of rightly deserved scorn heaped upon the foods available through the public school system. Jamie Oliver, among others, has worked tirelessly to raise awareness—and the standards—of school menus. It’s a dilemma of course, because schools have had to broaden their scope over the years. No more are schools solely institutions of learning. Now, they provide before school and after-school programs as well as taking on the burden of feeding those who don’t have enough to eat. A very tall order, all done on tighter and tighter budgets and with fewer and fewer staff. I know; I used to be a teacher in the public school system.
Regardless of where you come down on the schools-as-social-service debate, I believe we all must agree on the facts:
- 22% of all children in the United States live below the poverty line. —NCCP
- Almost half (45%) live in low-income families —NCCP
- In North Carolina alone, 56% of students in public schools were enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program (2011-2012 school year) —Kids Count Data Center
The burning questions become: what do we do about it? What is the answer? Should schools provide better, well-balanced meals? Or does the onus fall on families to provide better food? And where does the money come from for them to do that?
It’s enough to make one despair a bit.
Unless you’re Dionne Baldwin of Try Anything Once Culinary and Unique Home Options and No More Hungry Nights. She and her family have been working tirelessly to help raise awareness about food insecurity in her home state of Washington through both Unique Home Options and No More Hungry Nights. She talks the talk, but so much more importantly, she walks the walk.
During the school week of September 9-13, 2013, Dionne will only be eating what is available on the breakfast and lunch menus for the public schools in her school district. If they look anything like the menus from Wake County, she is going to be going to bed hungry every night. And while she is doing this by choice, there are many—too many—people who go to bed hungry every night because that is their only choice.
If you’d like to help or just support her efforts, please like her No More Hungry Nights facebook page, subscribe to her blog (there’s a sign-up in the right sidebar) so you can keep up with what she’s doing, and perhaps even look around at the needs in your area and make a donation of money or some canned goods. If we all do even just a little bit, hopefully families will experience fewer and fewer hungry nights until there really are No More Hungry Nights. No hyperbole.
Thank you so much for reading; have a wonderful day.