Feeding Our Hungry Little Ones

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - January 23, 2008
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Fact: The Hawaii Foodbank will feed nearly 33,000 children statewide over the next 12 months.

Thirty-three thousand children, 6,500 of them under the age of 5 - these are scary and staggering numbers, and it is not an exaggeration to say that a child who is hungry is a child at risk. Think about that.

Fact: Children who go hungry are four times more likely to suffer from persistent health problems.

Children who are hungry go to school less able to learn. They are kids who should be focusing on reading and writing, but instead are distracted by the gnawing emptiness of their stomachs. If they do poorly in school it affects their futures - and ours.

The Hawaii Foodbank has kicked off its annual food drive, and this year the focus is on the youngest of its clients. The truth is, though, hunger is a family affair. Their parents face ugly choices: Buy food for the table or pay the rent. Food or the electricity bill. Food or school supplies.

The notion that the only people who go hungry are the poorest of the poor or the homeless just doesn’t hold up anymore. We all know families who live on the edge. The scary truth is that more and more families just can’t stretch their paychecks to the end of the month. People are insecure.

According to the Hawaii Foodbank website, not all of its clients are impoverished:

* Even in a booming labor market, 70 percent of its clients have incomes below the official poverty level guidelines;

* 63 percent of all client households have monthly incomes of less than $1,000;

* 30 percent of its client households have at least one family member in poor health.

Sheri Rolf, who is on the board of the Hawaii Foodbank (disclosure: So am I) and is food drive chairwoman, has been involved with 18 of its 19 food drives. She says things are definitely getting worse out there: “This will be one of our most challenging and most important food drives to date.”

Rolf says the need is growing while our resources are shrinking. People are finding it harder to give.

“With the economic situation the way it is,” she says, “it’s really going to be tough to get donations.”

Rolf says although donations of food are up, monetary donations are down 12 percent so far this year. That’s likely to affect a lot of people - and especially the kids - for a reason that may surprise you. As Rolf explains it, the money allows the Foodbank to provide better nutrition by buying the types of food people often don’t donate.

“We didn’t always ask for money,” Rolf says, “but we need a good balance.”

That need for balance and nutrition is also the reason the Hawaii Foodbank came up with its top five list: canned meat or tuna, canned meals, canned soups, canned vegetables and canned fruits.

The food drive is just getting started and culminates in April.

For those of you thinking about getting involved with this cause, thank you. It’s easy, fun and well worth your time. You can find all the information you need at hawaiifoodbank.org.

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