Without the fail-safe of local food banks there would literally be no nutritional meals for the indigent poor. The essentials of food, clothing and shelter are taken for granted by most Americans but for those whose income resources are meager or perhaps even non-existent such essentials are never fully realized.
The numbers are devastating for a wealthy country like America. According to USDA 2008 statistics:
• Of the 49.1 million people living in food insecure households (up from 36.2 million in 2007), 32.4 million are adults (14.4 percent of all adults) and 16.7 million are children (22.5 percent of all children).
– 17.3 million people lived in households that were considered to have “very low food security,” a USDA term (previously denominated “food insecure with hunger”) that means one or more people in the household were hungry over the course of the year because of the inability to afford enough food. This was up from 11.9 million in 2007 and 8.5 million in 2000.
– Black (25.7%) and Hispanic (26.9%) households experienced food insecurity at far higher rates than the national average. (1)
Food banks fill the void for families who lack financial resources to provide for their daily nutritional needs. They serve the poorest of the poor and without this back-up system rates of malnutrition and even starvation would increase significantly in a land of plenty.
During normal periods of unemployment food banks struggle but are usually able to meet the demands of the local poor. However, during high unemployment rates as we are currently experiencing the ability to stock food bank panties goes into crisis mode. According to the Food Research and Action Center, “very low food security had been getting worse even before the recession. The number of people in this category in 2008 is more than double the number in 2000.”
Food banks are a life line for families who get cut off from the work force. Many who traditionally supplied such charitable organizations prior to the collapse of the economy two years ago now find themselves as recipients of this service. When many public assistance programs were eliminated during the 1980s local communities found themselves swamped to provide basic nourishment for the elderly, families subsisting on one worker income at minimum wage, the unemployed and their children. Volunteer efforts through churches, local clubs and private organizations came together in many communities to provide this vital assistance
Sadly, food banks are a testament to the fact that we haven’t advanced much beyond the conditions of Dickens’ characters like Oliver Twist and the street urchins that beg and stole to stay alive in a capitalist society where too few had too much and did too little. We still refuse to acknowledge that market systems are not fair and balanced; requiring the haves to accommodate the have-nots so they can at least have their “daily bread”.
But for the self-sacrifice of individuals who themselves are not wealthy and the generous donations of many others, many children in this country would suffer developmental issues related to nutrition and diet and elder citizens on a fixed income would have to choose between their food and their medications. Food banks have become and will remain a staple of the free-enterprise system that refuses to establish and maintain government programs that address the poor and disenfranchised that are too often treated as the dross of society.
(1) – http://www.frac.org/html/hunger_in_the_us/hunger_index.html