The Real Skinny on Hunger

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Food, glorious food. From Thanksgiving through New Years, many of us participate in what seems like an eating marathon. There are huge turkey dinners with enough leftovers for a week. We allow ourselves to overindulge in party buffets. We bake and eat a mountain of holiday breads and sweets. All this food makes me keenly aware of the large number of our San Antonio community whose cupboards are bare — all year long.

According to "Hunger in America 2010" and the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • 15.4% of Texas' population lives in poverty. San Antonio's poverty rate is 17.3%

  • San Antonio zip code 78207 has the highest poverty rate in the nation. Another dubious distinction for our city.

  • 23.5% of children in Bexar County live in poverty. This means one in four children frequently suffer from food insecurity.

  • 14% of households who need food assistance are seniors. And, this number will continue to grow.

So, the new term for hunger is food insecurity. It means having difficulty meeting basic nutritional needs. You probably know someone who is food insecure. It could be your neighbor, your co-worker or someone in your family. Food insecurity can mean a family's resources are so limited to buy food that they are running out of food, reducing the quality of food that their family eats, feeding their children unbalanced diets, or skipping meals so their children can eat. It can be the working poor--those with jobs, but whose shelter and utility expenses require a major portion of their paycheck. Almost half of households seeking emergency food assistance are forced to make choices between food and other basic necessities. According to the San Antonio Food Bank website, 48% of the Food Bank clients report having to choose between paying for utilities or food; 47% had to choose between paying for rent or a mortgage and food; 39% report having to choose between putting gas in the car or food.

How can San Antonio be one of the 'fattest cities' in the nation, and still have so many hungry people? It’s a fact that in urban areas like San Antonio, poor people are much more likely to be obese than those with more financial security. One explanation is that those in poorer neighborhoods often lack the option of eating healthy food. The fact is these neighborhoods do not have full grocery stores or sit-down restaurants, which often leaves them the choice between fast food and the packaged options at the convenience store. If there is a grocery store, often it is not stocked with "healthier choice" food items. At greenbaypressgazette.com we learn "episodic food insufficiency" adds to obesity as those who have temporary food restrictions — such as when food stamps run out at month's end — may overeat once they get food.

Daily Bread Ministries is a food ministry which collects and redistributes food to more than 200 churches and ministries who feed the hungry, manage drug rehab facilities, or provide transitional housing in San Antonio and surrounding areas.

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When I visited with Chuck Farmer, Executive Director of Daily Bread Ministries, he told me, “The need for feeding the hungry has increased tremendously over the last few years. The number of qualified agencies receiving our food distributions continues to escalate.”

One of the things I like about Daily Bread Ministries is that they collect food items--including produce--and other goods from grocery stores, farms, restaurants, and other businesses such as catering companies. All their food distributions are delivered by volunteers, at no cost to the receiving nonprofit.

From their huge warehouse, located at 700 West Houston, Daily Bread Ministries distributed more than 5 million pounds of food in 2010. Farmer's hope for the new year is to "continue to grow our outreach, to be able to help feed 10,000 more people next year." If you want to help Daily Bread Ministries they can use donations of food, cash, and volunteers. More information is available on their website.

More food for thought:

United Way

Hunger in America 2010

"Does poverty make people obese, or is it the other way around?"

For more from Laura Carter follow @LauraCarter or visit A Small Blog

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