Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

May 16, 2014

Hunger in the land of plenty

ASHLAND — Deborah Blevins pointed out that hunger has many causes and many faces.

“We don’t have a specific age group that we help,” Blevins, the manager of Helping Hands in Greenup, said. “We just try to help as many people as we can. People may be in need because of family illnesses or are on Social Security Disability.”

Blevins pointed out there is also a growing group of people who aren’t quite old enough to retire, but have lost jobs that they had worked for a number of years, and have had difficulty in the current economy finding new ones.

Another wrinkle in the already knotted problem of feeding families that has affected many is the Recovery Act of 2009, a law which boosted the dollar amount of benefits for those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food atamps, expired.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (cbpp.org), this could mean those receiving benefits will be budgeting with an available per person amount of as little as $1.40 per meal. Combined with consistently rising food costs, many families find it impossible to stretch an already strained food budget and feed themselves.

Feeding America (feedingamerica.org) helps to place this in stark relief with its Map the Meal Gap project by showing the face of hunger at a local level.

 Food insecurity (being without a reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food) is measured on a country, state and county level.

Overall Kentucky has a 16.7 percent insecurity rating, which equates to around 730,000 who are considered food insecure. Boyd County has a 15.3 percent rating, or around 7,500; Carter County has a 16.1 percent rating, or around 4,430; and Greenup County has a 13.8 percent, or around 5,090 who would be considered food insecure. All of these counties have a population that would require at least an additional $2,300 yearly to meet food needs.

Organizations like Helping Hands that are dedicated to relieving the food burden from those in need rely heavily on the support of businesses and community members. From 230 to 280 families between its Greenup and South Shore offices are helped on a monthly basis by Helping Hands alone; and that number is duplicated by the various other organizations throughout the area.

Summer can be particularly stressful for families, Blevins said, because school-age children are out for summer break and do not have the availability of school breakfast and lunch programs to help offset their need. There are some summer programs in place to offset that particular need, Assistant Director Dan Blevins said.

Those programs often go through school districts and churches. Some are sponsored by businesses that pick up the prepared lunches and distribute them.

Without the support of concerned residents and businesses, a serious problem would become much more difficult for area residents, some of whom are already below the level of breaking even.

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