Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

May 1, 2014

A Need to Feed

Georgia ranked fourth in childhood hunger

VALDOSTA — A recent government report ranked Georgia as fourth in the nation in childhood hunger, and Second Harvest of South Georgia is asking for help addressing the issue.

A U.S Department of Agriculture report determined that 49 million Americans live in homes with limited access to sufficient food. Almost 16 million are children, according to the report.

Georgia ranked behind Arizona, Mississippi and New Mexico in childhood hunger rates, with 28.1 percent of children labeled as “food insecure.” The report notes that, in 2012, one in five Georgians lived below the poverty line as a contributing factor.

“We weren’t surprised by the numbers of the report at all. It’s something we’ve known for a while,” said Eliza McCall, Second Harvest chief marketing officer.

Second Harvest’s goal is to eliminate hunger, and as a regional food bank, the organization has developed specific strategies to combat the issue, including after-school food programs and building partnerships with other organizations to feed those in need.

Out of the seven food banks in Georgia, McCall said, Second Harvest of South Georgia serves the region with the highest childhood hunger rate in the state.

“Our food insecurity rate is 29.5 percent. So one in three kids don’t know where they are getting their next meal,” said McCall.

She finds the statistics alarming but does not feel they reflect the effectiveness of hunger-relief efforts throughout the state. Neither does South Harvest Chief Executive Officer Frank Richards.

“The measure of our success can’t just be statistics. It’s seeing a Kids Café kid be the first one in his family to go to college, it’s a working mother volunteering on her day off because we helped feed her family when she was between jobs, and it’s rescuing millions of pounds of food each year from waste,” said Richards. “We see everyday how the work we and our partners are doing is improving things in our community.”

Richards said the statistics point to needs caused by a “tough economy,” and said Second Harvest is expanding to meet these needs. This includes opening a new distribution center in Thomasville in the next few weeks and continuing to seek community donations.

 “People can donate food, donate money and donate their time,” said McCall.

The Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is coming up May 10, and McCall said it is an easy opportunity for people to make a donation.

“It’s the largest single-day national food drive, and we do it with the National Association of Letter Carriers. You should get a food bag in your mailbox. Fill a bag, and feed a family,” said McCall.

Last year, Second Harvest received 100,000 pounds of food during the donation drive, said McCall.

“We put out 18.5 million pounds of food last year, so we’re absolutely making a difference,” said McCall. “But there is still a lot of work to be done.”

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