Think about being hungry. Not the “it is 1:30 p.m. and I haven’t had lunch yet” hungry. I’m talking about real hunger, like not having but one meal a day. And maybe that goes on day after day. And maybe you are watching your child go hungry.
That happens here in Arizona to a lot more people than you think. And it isn’t necessarily the faces that you might picture in your head that are the common faces of hunger in Arizona.
• The U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent report reveals Arizona has the second-highest poverty rate in the nation.
• The AZ Partnership to End Childhood Hunger reports of those people who seek emergency food in Arizona, only 11.8 percent of food recipients were homeless, and only 7 percent were over 65 years of age. Here is the shocker: More than a quarter (27.1 percent) of food recipients had completed trade school, attended college or achieved a college degree.
Certainly it is fair to say different people react differently to the “street person” panhandling at the exit ramps at major highways or in downtown Phoenix. Addiction and bad choices are often to blame for the plight of those folks.
But it is clearly hard luck more than bad choices that has created most of the hunger victims in Arizona today — lost or reduced incomes from a long-term shaky economy. These are people that have a history of working and providing for their families. They are prideful but they are hurting.
If you are reading this newspaper then you most likely at least attended college or went to a trade school. That means thousands of hungry people in Arizona are just like you.
So what are you doing about it? What can you do about it?
Organizations like the United Food Bank in Mesa offer hope and food. They work with scores of non-profit groups to get food to a lot of people that are suffering through hard times. In fact, through the many groups they work with the United Food Bank serves more than 40,000 meals every day of the year to the hungry. Read that again: more than 40,000 meals every day of the year.
So you can make a difference. You can help good people get through a hard time.
One of those non-profits that partners with United Food Bank is the Chandler Christian Community Center. Trinity Donovan, executive director of the center, reports in its last fiscal year the center distributed 16,608 food boxes with enough food to feed more than 54,000 people. The total number of unduplicated people served was 15,892.
That is in Chandler, which is generally regarded as one of the most affluent and successful communities in the nation. And yet hunger lives there.
For many people that have always worked and supported their families it would be hard to stand in line for free food. It must be humbling.
Donovan was one of the speakers at the United Food Bank’s second Friends of the United Food Bank Breakfast held recently at its facility in Mesa. More than 350 people attended to raise money for food for the hungry.
Donovan recounted to the breakfast crowd how one woman thanked her but said it was difficult to stand in line for free food. It would go against what many of us believe about ourselves. But she said she thinks of her 9-year-old daughter and the nutritious food that will be on their table and that motivates her to go through with the humbling experience.
Lisa Goin, chief development officer of the United Food Bank, reported this week that $30,893 was raised at the April 20 United Food Bank breakfast event. Total expenses were less than $1,200 as nearly everything associated with putting on such a large fundraiser was donated, Goin said.
“It’s thanks to good friends like Fry’s Food Stores, Hickman’s Family Farms, Classic Party Rentals, US Airways, APS, PepsiCo (Tropicana), Starbucks, Shamrock, and Sun Orchard that we were able to keep costs so low,” Goin said. “Also, having our own staff set up and tear down the event meant that we didn’t have to hire outside help.”
So those companies and the people that attended that breakfast and opened their checkbooks did a lot of good in that one day.
You can do some good too. It is easy. Get online and go to unitedfoodbank.org and click on the “give” button. You can give any amount and any amount is appreciated. But the site tells you that your gift of $75 can help feed a family of four for a month. If you can’t provide money then you can volunteer to work. The United Food Bank is a huge facility with a mammoth task of moving huge amounts of food to where the hungry are served.
Through grace or luck many of us will never need such help. This is a simple way to give thanks for your good fortune.