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COLUMN: Continue to act against hunger

Many people in the United States may not know it, but we're nearing the end of Hunger Action Month. The month of September is dedicated to spreading awareness of food insecurity in communities — which commonly go unnoticed locally — and to supporting food banks’ fight against hunger.

While it is great that a month dedicated to the fight against hunger exists, people cannot forget about food justice issues when September ends and October begins — especially amid the recent discussions to cut funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Now it is more important than ever to make a concerted effort to fight food insecurity in the U.S. 

Food insecurity is defined as a state without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. 

Forty-two million Americans live in food-insecure households. Thirteen million are children. This figure almost exactly matches the 43 million Americans living in poverty. 

The issue is not better in the state of Indiana. Of 6.6 million Hoosiers, 14.4 percent — or 950,720 — are food insecure, a percentage only slightly higher than the national average of 13.4 percent.

Locally, the problem is even worse. According to Feeding America, an organization responsible for charting food insecurity rates nationwide, Monroe County has a food insecurity rate of 17.8 percent, a figure notably higher than the national average.

Proposed for the 2018 federal budget are cuts of 25 percent of SNAP funding, amounting to approximately $4.4 trillion over the next decade. If these cuts were to be part of the final budget, food insecurity in the U.S. could drastically worsen.

SNAP is a proven, effective program for fighting hunger in the U.S. Research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that in many ways SNAP encourages work — a finding that contradicts the arguments that claim SNAP incentivizes unemployment. 

Abuse and fraud in SNAP use is also at an all-time low, contrary to the common myth of widespread abuse.

It is time to recognize that hunger and problems with our food system are not a partisan issue. No one in our county, state or country should have to go hungry. A U.S. that supports food justice is a better U.S. for all. 

The ramifications of a hungry population go much deeper than a growling stomach. Hungry citizens are both less productive and have poorer concentration.

For children, this means worse performance in school and fewer educated adults. For adults, this means a less efficient workforce and a weakened economy. 

Spread awareness of the fight against hunger for the rest of September, the Hunger Action Month, but be sure not to rest when the month ends. 

A wide array of options exist to fight hunger, be it donating money to national nonprofits such as Feeding America, volunteering at your local food bank or even donating canned goods. With the current political climate, it is important to avoid making food security a partisan issue and to work together as a nation to fight hunger at all levels.


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