May 21, 2024

Rural Issues: Hunger over the holidays

It has been a blessed Christmas season. The house smells of evergreen, cinnamon and gingerbread. The halls are decked, presents have been wrapped and you can hear Faron Young singing Christmas carols when you step in the backdoor of our house.

We are blessed this Christmas. Like most of our friends and family, we did not spend as much on gifts as we have in the past, but no one felt slighted or left out. We invested less in things and more in adventures and experiences.

As always, this season, there is plenty of food on our table. We grow a lot of that food ourselves. We have beef, eggs and vegetables that were harvested and preserved right here on our little piece of planet Earth.

Like so many other farmers and ranchers, we are working 365 days a year to responsibly and sustainably grow food and fiber to feed the world.

Unfortunately, feeding the world doesn’t equate to everyone getting enough to eat. Hunger is a problem not only in third world countries, but right here in the United States.

The abundance America’s farmers and ranchers grow, unfortunately, does not always reach our neighbor’s dinner tables. Hunger and food insecurity are more common in rural than in urban areas.

In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, although rural areas comprise less than two-thirds of all U.S. counties, nine out of 10 counties with the highest food insecurity rate are rural.

Plenty of working people — some paycheck to paycheck, but working all the same — must choose between gas for their cars to get to work, electricity for their homes, paying rent, or buying enough food to feed their families.

According to the U.S. Census, 38 million people lived in poverty last year. However, two-thirds of the people facing food insecurity in America reported incomes above the poverty line.

The stark reality is this: one in five children in these United States of America does not have enough food to eat. Children in rural areas are at an even greater risk of being food insecure.

These hungry kids are more likely to fall through the cracks in academics. They have trouble staying focused and learning in school.

Hunger can change the way a child’s brain and body grow and affect their thinking, behavior and learning not only in school, but in all aspects of their young lives.

Kids who are not getting enough to eat also face higher risks of anemia and asthma. A weakened immune system opens them up for more health problems.

When most of us consider who among us is hungry, we think of those who are homeless, living in shelters or disengaged from our society in some way, usually of their own choosing.

There are those in our communities who struggle silently, under the radar, feeling guilty and ashamed that they are unable to provide enough food for their families or themselves.

Let us not forget those less fortunate than we are this season. If you can volunteer or donate in some small way, it could change a life for the better.

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear

Cyndi Young-Puyear is farm director and operations manager for Brownfield Network.