Let’s talk about the guilt-inducing advertisements that pop up on tv, commonly during guilty pleasure programming. You know the ones: sad photos of abandoned pets or excruciatingly malnourished children span the screen, accompanied by music intended to tug heart strings, with the voice of Alyssa Milano (or another actress or singer) pleading with you to pick up the phone. Make a donation. Change a life.
When I see those advertisements come on, the only thing I feel moved to do is change the channel.
Maybe you’re a better person than I am. I’m always skeptical of whether the organizations that fund the advertisements will act as faithful stewards of your money, diligently forwarding it to the chronically hungry people who really need it. I hope that they do, and that their efforts in airing those advertisements make an actual difference in the lives of underfed children. But I wonder if what they’re really accomplishing is to create, in the minds of the millions of American people lucky enough to be ignorant of the chronically hungry experience, a limited image of what hunger really looks like.
Can you picture it? Young children in India or in some African country, scarcely clothed; their skin taut against their tiny bones, which stick out clearly enough to count; their arms pencil-thin and their heads seeming disproportionately large compared to the frail frame of their bodies.
These images are painful to see. They may trigger guilt in people who have much and take it for granted. They may elicit responses of sympathy or sadness, if only for a moment. But empathy isn’t attainable for most of us in this case. We know what it’s like to feel the dull aches of hunger from working through lunch, maybe even dinner too, but most of us can’t even approximately approach a true understanding of what chronic hunger feels like.
Hunger is an epidemic. It’s a world-wide epidemic. And do you know what that means? It’s here too.
Food insecurity is high in Henderson County. According to research in 2013 by the UNC School of Government, 13 percent of the county’s population. 25.5% of the county’s children are affected by food insecurity. Think about that. A quarter of the children in our county
are in households where the availability of the next meal is unsure.
- Food security occurs when people have consistent access to enough food to sustain an act
ive, healthy life. To have food security, one must be able to readily acquire nutritional foods (both logistically and financially) in “socially acceptable ways.”
- There are levels of food security, ranging from high- and moderate-food security to low- and very low-food security. The latter two are considered food insecurity, in which situation people don’t always know where they will find their next meal. That’s when hunger enters the picture.
- Folks who are classified food insecure worry about whether the food they have purchased will last until the next time they have means to purchase more; times where their food intake i
s limited, and their eating patterns are altered as a result of not having adequate resources with which to acquire more or better food.
- Food insecurity can lead to someone’s cutting the quality of the food they eat, the frequency of their meals, and the portion sizes. Someone in this situation may go without eating at all, certainly without eating enough, despite hunger pangs.
One in four normal looking children are in a position of food insecurity. In our community. Think about your kids, or your grandchildren, and the schools they attend. Normal-looking children, running around in school. Their faces not sunken in, their clothing not tattered—you can’t tell from looking at them how many ribs they have. You can’t see their hunger but in many of them, it’s an ever-present companion.
We need to re-frame how we look at hunger. It is not only an issue of frail, skeletal children on other continents, about which we are reminded in sound bytes during our evening television programming. It’s easy to sit back and eat our three square meals, taking for granted the regularity with which we are accustomed to fueling our bodies, and change the channel when the advertisements about starving children grace our screens.
What about when you consider the children in our own community who combat hunger? When you consider the way that hunger might affect their day-to-day lives? What about the moms who work hard, but still are unable to adequately provide nourishment for their children? The dads supporting families on a salary that just doesn’t cut it? What about when you consider that your own children probably have at least a couple of peers in those situations?
Rae’s Cottage Kitchen had a great first year. It is truly a blessing to be able to do what I enjoy doing, and turn it into a living. It doesn’t get old—the feeling of satisfaction that comes over me when I hear that my customers are pleased with the food that I sell them. To be able to enrich other peoples’ lives through the use of my own gifts and talents is a real joy and blessing. But my vision for Rae’s Cottage Kitchen does not stop at selling people good food, turning a profit.
My vision for Rae’s Cottage Kitchen is that it contributes to the betterment of the community. I want this business to make a difference; in addition to providing clients with great food (did I mention that the food is delicious?). Rae’s Cottage Kitchen is going to bring light to the issue of food insecurity in our community, and to help support and contribute to the groups who are addressing it. I’m no Alyssa Milano, Lord knows, but cue that cheesy music, y’all. Food insecurity and hunger in Henderson County…we’re coming for you.
Keep checking back to my blog and Facebook page to learn more about these issues, who is affected; how this affects our community; what resources currently exist to help folks who are food insecure and hungry; what gaps appear to linger; and how you can help!