Reality Check On Hunger

By Pamela A. Williams, MPH, R.D.

Photo by Dreamstime

Not too long ago, I went to the grocery store and purchased five small bags of groceries. As I reached for my wallet, the amount popped up on the cash register’s screen, $109. As I carried my groceries to the car I started adding the purchases: cheese - $6, one avocado - $2.29, etc. The prices had quietly climbed but I didn’t notice until I paid for them. At this point, I am blessed to have the money to cover my groceries but what is it like for others?

A recent blog posted 20 facts about child hunger and poverty that would break your heart. Among the list are data such as 21 percent of U.S. children are living in poverty; 15 percent of U.S households have gone through food shortages; and statistically, there are more children living in poor households than in wealthy ones. These numbers are new to the United States but not to the world. This same blog reports that 1 billion children go to bed hungry each night.1 And my heart breaks.

As a Christian, certain beliefs are challenged when I read these numbers. In the Bible, Jesus reminds us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. If I am buying food for my family, should I also be concerned with neighbors who go to bed hungry? I hang my head and answer, “yes.” Another place in the Bible asks the question, “Who is my neighbor?”  

“Those who go to bed hungry each night or those who don’t have enough food to feed their families,” I tell myself.

What can I do? What can we do? The first thing in my mind is to simply be thankful and don’t take food for granted. Second, find a church or an organization that has a system in place to identify and feed those who are hungry. Third, donate or volunteer and love the hungry as we love ourselves. Do you know a family who is struggling to make ends meet? Anonymously slip them a grocery gift card to make sure they have something to eat.

There is another kind of hunger in the United States. This kind of hunger takes place when families eat but the foods are high in fat, sugar and salt; and low in nutrients, fiber and other ingredients needed for good health. With this type of hunger, people gain weight but the body still needs the nutrients for good health. Lack of physical activity compounds the problem. This leads to increased health care cost, chronic disease and disabilities. High food costs and high medical costs add to our hunger and poor health problem.

What can we do? Shop wisely for fruits, vegetables and whole grains that are in season and on sale. Read the label and get foods that are nutrient dense and are free or light in fat, sugar and salt.

Hunger is a human problem that humans can change… even if it is one person at a time!