Looking forward to enjoying your meal on Thanksgiving? I’ll bet you’ll have plenty to eat – probably a little too much. Chances are you haven’t thought for one second about whether you’ll be able to scrape together enough food for your family’s holiday meal. Not all of our neighbors are so fortunate.
In Anne Arundel County more than 25,000 people live below the poverty line, according to Cathy Bird, executive director of Food Link. One in 4 children in our school system receives a free or reduced fee lunch, Cathy told me. And for many of these kids that will be their main meal of the day. If they weren’t given a backpack with food to take home on Friday, these children wouldn’t have enough to eat over the weekend.
These families don’t worry just about having enough to eat on Thanksgiving, they continually struggle with having enough to eat. Food stamps help, Cathy says, but they’re long gone by the end of the month. That’s when the cute little 5th grader comes to the school office to ask if they have anything they could give her to eat. Her older brother is too embarrassed to tell anyone he’s hungry, so he either just sits in class suffering in silence or doesn’t come to school at all.
How could this happen right here in our community where so many people have so much?
I recently ask Cathy to explain to me how the families that Food Link serves have gotten into such dire circumstances. The example she gave was of a single mother and her 17-year-old son who receive food and help with their electric bill from Food Link. The father’s never been in the picture, so no support there. Mom’s battled cancer, which has limited her ability to work. At the end of some months the mother’s had no food stamps or money left, leaving her to choose between paying for her medications and buying groceries.
After all the years of struggle, the woman’s teenage son is suffering from a condition called food insecurity. The American Academy of Pediatrics defines a food-insecure household as one in which access to food is limited by available resources. Although you can’t tell by looking at the 17-year-old’s external appearance, he’s in that category of people who are hungry sometimes, but not others. The problem is that he can’t predict what his food situation will be on any given day.
Bad enough to be hungry, but adding the psychological stress of not knowing when you will be able to eat has serious consequences. The 20% of children in America who live in food-insecure families have poorer health and more hospitalizations than their peers from better off homes. In addition, the Academy also found that food insecurity is associated with behavior problems, poor cognitive functioning, and depression so severe that adolescents often consider committing suicide to escape their plight.
Food Link serves a vital purpose for families who are food insecure. These families are on the margin. They don’t need a homeless shelter, there are just times that they desperately need help to tide them over with enough food until they can get some more money. Many of their clients are working, but at minimum wage jobs that leave them just far enough below the poverty line that they don’t qualify for lots of government aid.
Food Link doesn’t require a lengthy application or approval process – they just provide food for people who are hungry when they show up. Another segment of society that they serve are seniors who are living on a meager fixed income. They’re usually unable to work due to chronic health problems, which creates high medical expenses and leaves them without enough money for food. Where do they turn when it’s 3 more days until their next social security check arrives and they don’t have any more food? Food Link.
Please help. You can make a meaningful difference in someone’s life by supporting Food Link’s efforts to ensure that your neighbors have a secure source for food. Food Link is strictly local, so all of your money stays in our community. Your financial contributions will go directly to a child that’s sitting next to yours at school. Or the nice older woman who lives around the corner from you.
Go to www.foodlinkmaryland.org to learn more about what you can do. Perhaps you could become one of their wonderful volunteers. Food Link could really use your help.