HUNGER IS a reality for millions of Americans and an increasing problem in rural areas, which are known as the food basket of the world.
Americans will do themselves no favor if they react to this news by blaming government, blaming those in poverty or assuming there are simple solutions for complex problems. It will be more constructive to focus on national awareness about hunger and the options for those in need of food.
Support for local charities and food banks is desperately needed.
Feeding America, a national hunger relief organization, released a report last week indicating that 50 million Americans -- one out of every six citizens -- live in food-insecure homes. The report does not say these people are hungry each day. It suggesting instead that many face periodic hunger or inadequate diets, and most are only a paycheck removed from dire hunger.
A mix of government programs, charitable efforts and personal initiative options are available for the 33 million adults listed as high-risk by Feeding America. That still leaves 17 million children who are predominantly reliant on their parents to find solutions.
One surprising statistic in the study is that rural children are at risk. Many people expected that child hunger is largely an urban problem.
Schools help address the problem. Free or reduced cost meals are available to students from low-income households. Some school districts offer breakfast or other programs, as well. Those represent valuable safety nets that do not extend to the summer months or weekends.
Food stamps usage hit an all-time high in May when 21.5 million households, representing nearly 46 million Americans -- roughly 15 percent of the population -- received assistance. Other programs such as the Women Infants and Children program or state nutrition assistance help millions more. Food banks, food pantries and senior nutrition centers are doing their part.
Yet hunger remains.
Laura Bauer from the Kansas City Star interviewed a family of eight where the father became ill and his monthly disability check of $1,700 does not meet all of the family's needs. The man feels guilty going to a food pantry, but has sought assistance to feed his six daughters.
Hunger in America is not a new theme. In 1986, the Hands Across America campaign was designed to raise money for and raise awareness about the need for food and shelter. One of the campaign's greatest successes was that millions of people came to realize there is hunger in the richest nation on earth.
There have been success stories. Kraft Foods started a mobile food pantry truck system that is now in its third year. The company has delivered 33 million pounds of food. Second Harvest provides 1.5 million pounds of donated food each month.
The struggling economy and high unemployment rate will continue to create financial problems for U.S. families.
Quincy Catholic Charities, the Central Illinois Foodbank, the Salvation Army Family Service Department and other agencies are finding it hard to meet the demand for food.
Those of us who have not experienced hunger can help with donations, by volunteering or by directing those in need to a provider.