Yesterday was World Food Day and this Thursday is Junior World Food Day, two days marked for the observance of raising awareness of food access and hunger around the world, as well as a promotion to end it! If we’re honest we know that there is more than enough food for everyone to eat their fair share of healthy food, but there are so many limitations and obstacles that are prohibiting people around the globe from getting one of their basic needs met -nutrition, and according to Hunger Free Vermont, in 2020, 33% of Vermonters experienced hunger every day.
Poor nutrition from hunger can lead to physical, emotional, and other types of illness, higher healthcare costs, and health inequities since certain groups are more likely to be impacted than others. Orleans County isn’t immune to hunger! According to Feeding America, (www. https://map.feedingamerica.org) Orleans Country’s food insecurity rate is 12.4% which is 13.8% higher than the national average. Our child food insecurity rate is 17.2% which is 17.8% higher than the national average. The annual food budget shortfall for Orleans County is $2,043,000 with the average cost per meal coming in at $3.59. To some this is their reality, to others, they can’t imagine a meal costing $3.59, they spend that on a drink at the store. These numbers show our area is in need.
The NEK comes with its own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to food security:
Disadvantage: transportation! Rural area with transportation struggles means that people just can’t get where they need to, when they need to and especially how they want to. People hoping to access affordable food who can’t get to the store are limited with options. Food deliveries are scarce and often incur an upcharge for such services.
Advantage/Disadvantage: There are food access programs and meal sites available, however, some are closing or have limited drivers for deliveries, meaning the programs aren’t available to all people and some are still left without access to the services they need.
Disadvantage: Economic conditions play a significant role in determining food security levels within a community. Orleans County has a high poverty, limiting individuals’ ability to afford the nutritional foods they deserve and need to be eating. Economic factors such as low wages and high unemployment rates can contribute to food scarcity within the county, and we see it in our communities.
How can we help?
Donating is great – locally is better. Personally is best! Know of a neighbor who may be shut in or going through a hardship? A senior or someone who is going through an illness? Bring them food, healthy food, they will eat, rather than the cheapest meals possible.
Give your time! There are many food shelves, schools, churches, and other programs that need helping hands. Sometimes they need helpers for events where food is being given out and especially drivers for meals. From the Meals on Wheels programs to the holiday meals the VFW organizes, there can be all the food in the world, but they need people to donate their time to get it to the right people.
Eat with someone. Yes, eat with someone. Bring a meal and share it. Visit a shut-in and sit with them while they eat. Go visit the family and sit and have a bit with them. People need community! How nice would it be to not just give and run but sit and share. When we start to meet our community members where they are, we can build friendships, trust and perhaps, maybe change someone’s lives, maybe even yours. Can you not just help at a meal site but site and eat with someone too? Can you not just buy a coffee for that person you see sitting outside in the rain every day but take a moment to sit and have a cup with them.
People are people, and we have basic needs, we need food, we need shelter, and we need each other. Feeding each other matters, because if we are hungry, we can’t be who want to be, who we dreamt of being and we can’t feel and heal how we should. We can do that even better with someone beside us. Let’s do better this year as we help to feed to the community, ending hunger by offering more of ourselves too! Slowly, let’s work towards a fed community, a fed world and end to all hunger!
Director of The Wellness Center