Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Syndicated Columnist Brings Attention to Summer Hunger in New Mexico and Elsewhere

“Food banks in Arizona and New Mexico just don’t do summer feeding because there aren’t enough volunteers, there isn’t enough food, and not enough money to get food out to the remote rural areas scattered throughout counties. And I repeatedly hear that in states with drought conditions, fewer crops are being planted, which means less donated fresh fruits and vegetables and more farmworkers who aren’t working enough to sustain themselves. Then the farmworkers end up turning to food banks in greater numbers just to get by.” Ross Fraser, director of media relations for Feeding America
Nationally syndicated columnist Esther J. Cepeda alluded to New Mexico in her column entitled "Hunger Never Takes a Holiday. " The comments about New Mexico and Arizona were part of a quote from Ross Fraser, director of media relations for Feeding America.

In a piece posted on June 24, Roadrunner Food Bank also addressed the issue of summer hunger. "In New Mexico alone, on a year-round basis, more than 136,000 children and 358,000 people overall don’t know where their next meal will come from, according to Map the Meal Gap 2016. Imagine the loss these children and families feel when the support nets of free and reduced-price school meals end for a 2-3 month period," said Matthew Young in an article entitled Why Solving Summer Hunger Matters.

RRFB made a similar argument two years ago. " For struggling families, the summer is a time of dread.  Their children no longer have access to the subsidized school meal programs. This means that struggling parents must come up with a way to provide those additional meals while school is out," said Donna Marlow in a piece entitled Summer Time Stress and Worry.

Fortunately, there are 900 sites in New Mexico that offer access to children during the summer months via a USDA supported program. This goes a long way to alleviate hunger in our state during May, June, July and August.  However, this is probably not enough.

In her column, Cepeda alludes to the many creative ways that food banks and other providers around the country use to get food to people (including the ice cream truck in Las Vegas, Nevada). 

Cepeda notes that citizens around the country have stepped forward to provide food donations to the food banks during the summer months. But distributing the donations becomes a challenge. There are fewer volunteers during the summer months, and the logistics of setting up sites to distribute food to an increasingly large population of working poor has created additional difficulties.

Quoting Charlotte Tidwell, executive Antioch Consolidated Association for Youth and Family Inc. in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Cepeda suggests that increasing monetary donations during the summer months would help food banks around the country partially address this issue.

"Every dollar counts. If you have a few to spare, consider feeding hungry fellow Americans your act of patriotism this weekend," Cepeda said in her column published a few days before the Independence Day holiday in large newspapers like The Albuquerque Journal, The Denver Post, The Washington Post, The Salt Lake Tribune, and The Commercial Appeal (Memphis), and smaller newspapers like The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, California), The Taunton Daily Daily Gazette (Taunton, Massachusetts), and The Janesville Gazette (hometown newspaper in Wisconsin for House Speaker Paul Ryan).

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