Today is World Food Day – a day drawing awareness to global hunger and food insecurity.
Let’s focus on the impact of hunger and food insecurity in our Empire State Division, which covers all of upstate New York.
Every day of the year, The Salvation Army is there to provide a warm meal, a basket of food and comfort to those in need. And it’s not just food that is provided, it’s a caring environment with a listening volunteer or officer who can offer support, prayers and additional services. We want to bring about a positive lasting change to those who need us.
Because of our caring donors, The Salvation Army was able to provide almost a million meals throughout our 48 New York State counties and one in Pennsylvania.
Listed below are some striking numbers that illustrate the poverty in the State, not just in urban areas and but in rural communities too:
- In several cities in upstate New York, half of the children live under the poverty line,
- In New York State, almost one in four households with children report the inability to afford enough food,
- Households often survive on limited budgets and have to make difficult choices between paying for food and paying for other essentials. These dilemmas can put households in the position of choosing between competing necessities, which include housing, transportation, winter clothing, medical care and/or prescriptions,
- In rural areas, employment is more concentrated in low-wage industries,
- In rural areas, support services, such as flexible and affordable child care and public transportation, are less available,
- Communities in rural areas often have less access to high speed internet. Many companies now only accept job applications online,
- Unemployment and underemployment are greater in rural areas,
- Statewide, 2.3 million residents rely on emergency food assistance annually. That breaks down to approximately 570,000 different people turning to emergency food programs for weekly assistance and
- Research from Hunger Action New York suggests that families no longer visit “emergency food” pantries for temporary relief, but rely on food pantries as a supplemental food source.
But for our youth, hunger during childhood can have life-long effects:
- Inadequate nutrition is linked to delayed brain development and an impaired ability to learn,
- Hunger can result in reduced academic indicators such as lower test scores, higher absenteeism and more grades repeated,
- Kids who are hungry are seven to 12 times more likely than at-risk or not hungry children to have issues related to fighting, difficulties with a teacher, ignoring rules or stealing, and
- Children may feel bullied, isolated or embarrassed by their lack of food. They can exhibit signs such as depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.
We work to combat hunger with meals, 56.9 million meals last year at Salvation Army centers across America. We combat hunger in children with after school programs that offer a nutritious meal, homework help and exercise. Nationally, 250,000 children attend Salvation Army programs that keep them safe, feed and engaged.
Throughout the state, Salvation Army Worship and Community Centers provide soup kitchens daily, food pantries, after school programs and summer day camps that help lessen the hunger pangs of adults and children.
It is a frightening issue. But our mission, motivated by the love of God, is to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.
With the help of our generous donors of both food and money, we are able to do that and help change lives.