September is Hunger Action Month
Latest Hunger Study reveals locally Ozarks Food Harvest’s network of pantries and programs serving more than 260,000 unduplicated individuals annually
SPRINGFIELD, Mo.— Hunger advocates from Springfield and across the country will be wearing orange on Thursday, Sept. 4 in an effort to raise awareness of the 49 million people in the United States who struggle with hunger. It’s just one of the many awareness events taking place throughout the month of September in recognition of Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month — a month-long campaign to help end hunger in our country.
“This year’s Hunger Action Month is especially meaningful to us, as our latest study of hunger in our region just revealed our member pantries and programs are serving more than 260,000 people each year,” said OFH President/CEO Bart Brown. “That’s a 69 percent increase over who we thought we were serving together.”
According to the USDA, 49 million Americans are food insecure which means they may not know where their next meal is coming from. This includes 16 million children and nearly five million seniors. In the 28 counties Ozarks Food Harvest serves, 16 percent of the population struggles with hunger, including 23.5 percent of children, or 61,130.
Starting next week, Ozarks Food Harvest, along with 200 other food banks in the Feeding America network, will kick off Hunger Action Month by holding events throughout the country to inspire people to take action to help the millions of people who are food insecure in the United States.
Events include everything from asking businesses across the country to light their buildings orange (the symbolic color of hunger) to food packing events at food banks across the country.
Some of the events taking place in Springfield include:
- Happy Hour Live on Sept. 3 from 5–7:30 p.m. when OFH kicks off Hunger Action Month at University Plaza with the Springfield Business Journal. OFH is the featured charity and the UP indoor fountain will light orange.
- Hunger Action Day™ on Sept. 4 when individuals can wear orange — the symbolic color of hunger — to support hunger awareness in the Ozarks and nationwide. Advocates can also “light up” orange by lighting their businesses or homes with orange lighting.
- Hungerthon on Alice 95.5 FM is Friday, Sept. 5 through Monday, Sept. 8, when Clear Channel teams up with The Food Bank to help raise money on-air for OFH’s Weekend Backpack Program. This year is the 16th annual radio-thon.
- King’s Way UMC Food Drive at Springfield Dillons stores is Saturday, Sept. 6 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Arvest Bank’s 1 Million Meals campaign invites community members to donate nonperishable food items or cash at any Springfield, Branson or Joplin area Arvest locations, Sept. 3–Nov. 1.
- Panera Bread’s Second Friday promotion donates a portion of select purchases on Friday, Sept. 12 to OFH’s Weekend Backpack Program. Cafes in Springfield, Branson and Joplin participate.
- OFH at the Farmers Market of the Ozarks is Saturday, Sept. 13, with FMO’s “Iron Chef Competition” benefiting Ozarks Food Harvest. Donate nonperishable food items, local fresh produce or monetary gifts. Orange Ozarks Food Harvest t-shirts will also be for sale for $10.
- Beginning Sept. 15, people can vote for Ozarks Food Harvest and its partner pantries to receive $60,000 from Walmart Fight Hunger. Spark Change. at walmart.com/fighthunger. Voting ends Oct. 5.
- Tea Bar & Bites’ Apron Fashion Show and Silent Auction is Sept. 17, with proceeds from auction items benefiting OFH.
“The economy has experienced an unusually slow recovery since the deep recession, and many families still struggle to afford food,” Brown said. “With higher-than-average inflation and the rising cost of food, the number of those struggling in our area remains high. While unemployment rates have declined, many workers at the bottom of the labor market have not seen a real increase in wages for many years.”
According to Ozarks Food Harvest officials and the recent stats they just received from Hunger in America 2014 — an extensive study of hunger — too many clients face low wages or underemployment in the Ozarks.
- This has led to 62 percent of households serve in SWMO choosing between paying for food and paying for medical care at least once in the past 12 months.
- Sixty-seven percent reported making the choice between paying for food and utilities.
- In order to cope, 84 percent of clients reported “purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food.”
- Due in part to poor nutrition, 58 percent of clients report high blood pressure and 32 percent report diabetes. These chronic diseases, and subsequent medical bills, are further preventing these families from improving their situation and becoming food secure.
“Those we serve want healthy food items,” Brown said. “Now at the time of this survey, last summer, their most requested item was fresh fruits and vegetables, followed by protein items like meats and lastly, dairy products. We had a pretty good idea of these requests, despite not having study results in hand, and we’ve been able to double the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables and dairy distributed in the last year alone.”
To learn more local Hunger in America study details or for more ways to help during Hunger Action Month, go to ozarksfoodharvest.org.
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About Ozarks Food Harvest
Ozarks Food Harvest is the Feeding America food bank for southwest Missouri, serving 200 organizations across 28 Ozarks counties. The Food Bank distributes more than 12.5 million meals annually to more than 260,000 unduplicated individuals. Learn more at ozarksfoodharvest.org, facebook.com/ozarksfoodharvest or twitter.com/ozksfoodharvest.
About Feeding America
Feeding America is a nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. Together, food is provided to more than 37 million people through 61,000 food pantries, community kitchens and emergency shelters across America. Feeding America also supports programs that improve food security among those it serves; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger. Donate, volunteer, advocate or educate at feedingamerica.org, facebook.com/FeedingAmerica or twitter.com/FeedingAmerica.