March 2016 Column: Every Meal Matters
Hunger is an uncomfortable truth that affects children in our State; even some of our closest neighbors. To most of us, hunger can seem like a foreign term. Unfortunately, we are not talking about children on the other side of the globe, but in our local communities. The startling fact is that in Alabama, 300,000 (1 in 4) children do not know where they will get their next meal and risk hunger every day. Hunger is more than just a missed meal; it is a health problem, education problem, job readiness and workforce problem.
Nutritious meals fuel our bodies and minds to function and properly develop. Children facing food insecurity in the first three years of life are more likely to start school behind their peers. According to the USDA, food insecurity occurs when people lack access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food due to lack of money or other resources. When children have access to nutritious meals-- graduation rates increase, doctor visits decrease as children are less likely to get sick, and our economy is stimulated.
Three years ago, End Child Hunger in Alabama (ECHA) was launched by Auburn University’s Hunger Institute, which I am pleased to serve as the campaign spokesperson. ECHA is a statewide, multisector initiative addressing the critical issues of hunger and food insecurity facing Alabama’s children and youth. ECHA focuses to increase Alabama families’ economic stability, cultivate a strong regional food system, build public will to end childhood hunger, improve the food assistance safety net for Alabama’s children, support community action, and enhance children’s health and prevent obesity. Since 2013, ECHA has made great strides on behalf of childhood hunger due to the collaborative effort of outstanding key leaders serving on the task force.
End Child Hunger in Alabama has recently launched the Every Meal Matters campaign. The campaign includes a public service announcement that is being shown on televisions across our State to bring to light the pressing issue of child hunger and the importance of nutritious meals for Alabama’s children.
Hunger is preventable in our State, but we must work together. The children of our State deserve our attention. Together we can start a public movement to combat childhood hunger in Alabama. Join me in getting involved with a local feeding organization and share the PSA below. Visit endchildhungeral.org for more information. #EveryMealMatters