When you think of danger, the first thing that probably comes to mind is being in the wrong place at the wrong time or the possibility of imminent physical harm. For most of us, our first thoughts are not typically ‘will my kids have enough to eat tonight.’ Being hungry is not something that most of us consider dangerous, but the stark truth is that many people go through their day not knowing when their next meal will occur.
Filling Hoosiers with more than words
Surprisingly, hunger is one of the biggest threats facing Hoosiers today. Currently, one in six Indiana residents is food insecure. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or the ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.”
That means that there are more than 1 million Hoosiers who do not know where their next meal is coming from or are forced to consume food considered unfit by the average person. That number is far too high, and the Indiana General Assembly has pledged to stand up for those who struggle to put food on the table.
Legislators from the House and Senate – Republicans and Democrats – decided to join Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, the state’s food bank association, in an effort to raise awareness of this issue and gain support for local food banks.
Created by former Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman in 2005, Feeding Indiana’s Hungry is a network of 11 member food banks that serve all 92 Indiana counties, each serving a specific geographic area. A 2010 report estimated that 117,900 people received emergency food assistance each week from a food pantry, soup kitchen or agency served by one of those member food banks. Clearly, there’s a need to be filled and addressed.
Even more concerning to me is that Feeding America research revealed that 24.5 percent of children in Indiana were food insecure in 2009. Roughly 388,640 children under the age of 18 did not get enough to eat. As a mother, I cannot imagine having to make the decision between paying my utility bills or making sure my children have enough to eat.
In 2012, the 11 food banks of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry distributed 73.7 million pounds of food. Twenty-one percent came from federal commodities, 67 percent was donated and 12 percent was purchased with donor funds and grants. Hoosier food banks provide food to more than 1,700 local church pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, day cares and other nonprofits in their areas.
To find a food pantry near you, visit http://www.purdue.edu/indianasefrnetwork/search.aspx.
The Statehouse will be hosting Hunger Awareness Day on February 18th from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. If you are so inclined, monetary donations can be made online to Feeding Indiana’s Hungry at http://feedingindianashungry.org/get-involved/donate.
Hoosier hospitality is more than a simple smile on the sidewalk or nod as you drive by. It’s reaching out a helping hand to those in need and truly caring about the welfare of others. I invite you join the General Assembly in standing up against hunger in Indiana and ensuring that we continue improving our state for future generations.
State Rep. Cindy Ziemke serves as Vice Chairman of the Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee. She also serves on the Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development Committee and the Select Committee on Government Reduction. Rep. Ziemke represents portions of Rush, Fayette, Franklin, Ripley and Decatur counties.