When you hear the word hunger, what do you think of? If you’re like most people, you think of that empty feeling in you have in the pit of your stomach sometime between your bowl of Cheerios at 8:00 AM and your turkey sandwich at noon. But hunger has another definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, “a strong desire for something or to do something.” For people trying to solve the problem of food insecurity in our community, it is that second definition that drives them. Providing for the immediate needs of hungry families is an absolute necessity, but solving the underlying problems that lead to food insecurity, and the problems that are a result of it, is an even bigger challenge.
Solving the problem of hunger in Minnesota will require more from each of us than buying an extra box of spaghetti at the grocery store and placing it in the bin. Knowing who in your community is at risk or currently suffers from food insecurity is a start. Reaching out to them is the next step. Compassion. Understanding. Communication. These are the things that will help eradicate the stigma that is sometimes associated with food insecurity and will allow those who need help seek it without fear of being shamed or judged in the check-out line at Cub. No one should have to be embarrassed to accept help.
The recession has pushed social services, community service providers, and our food shelves to their very limits. Visits to food shelves by Minnesota seniors has more than quadrupled since 2008 and 1 in 6 Minnesota children live in hunger. There are too many people in need and not enough resources to meet those needs. Innovative programs like Second Harvest Heartland’s Harvest To Home are helping to reduce waste by collecting fresh unsold or un-harvested fruits and vegetables from farmers and farmer’s markets and using them to feed our local, hungry neighbors. Big problems call for big thinkers and big solutions. What are you hungry for?