POMEROY — Hunger in homes, or food hardship as some prefer to call it, is a reality in Meigs County, where it is estimated that one in six households at times lack adequate food.
In the recently released report on “Food Hardship in America 2012,” conducted by the Gallup organization as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the Midwest was listed as having 20.5 percent of households reporting food hardship. The question asked in the Gallop poll to the thousands of households surveyed was “Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?” Overall in the United States 18.2 percent of households answered “yes” to the question.
The report indicates that the continuing high rate of food hardship in 2012 is evidence of the lingering effects of the recession with its high unemployment and underemployment, stagnant and falling wages. It describes food hardship as unacceptable, as a “national scourge that harms children, working-age adults and seniors, harms health, learning and productivity, and drives up health and other costs for families.”
The report comes at a time when government assistance to agencies providing food to those in need is being cut. In a Sentinel news story earlier this week it was noted that the Meigs County Council on Aging’s support from federal and state agencies for providing meals on wheels to home-bound seniors had been cut again for this year and that there are indications that another 10 percent will be cut in the next few months.
According to Beth Shaver, executive director of the Council on Aging, this is the first time in the 41 year history of the agency that those requesting home delivered meals have had to go on a waiting list. “We simply cannot afford to take on more people. We have reached a limit,” she said.
Cuts have also been made to the meal program for seniors who take lunch at the Center. In both instances for many of the elderly the home delivered meals and the congregate senior luncheons are the only nutritious meals they have and sometimes the only one they have in a day.
Food pantries in several locations around the county remain a source for many families in need of food, but they too are struggling to supply the ever-increasing demand for food.
The Meigs Cooperative Parish, which is the largest agency distributing food donated by churches, organizations, business and individuals has, by necessity, cut back somewhat on the amount of food they are able to provide to each family.
According to the report on the Hunger in America, children from food insecure households are likely to fall behind in their academic development compared to other children. Research showed that food insecurity impairs academic development of young school-age children, that the reading and mathematical skills of children from homes where food is inadequate developed significantly more slowly than other children.
Recognizing that nutrition is a critical component to learning ability, schools now serve not only luncheons but breakfasts to the children and in some instances a fruit or vegetable snack during the day. A well filled snack tray is available to the children at the Meigs Elementary School, thanks to special grant funding secured by Christy Musser, Meigs Local food service director.
Not only does inadequate food create lessened learning skills, but insufficient nutrition puts children at risk for illness and weakens their immune system. As a result their ability to not only learn but to grow and fight infections is adversely affected.
Nine states, one of which is Ohio, exhibited significant higher household food insecurity rates than the rest of the United States.