I recently had the privilege of working with the Piqua Area United Way and the Piqua Salvation Army to help kick off their annual Summer Feeding Program. For those unaware of the activity, the Summer Feeding Program provides a free, hot meal to the community’s children in various locations around town. Every Monday through Friday, volunteers at the Salvation Army cook up meals and the Salvation Army drives around town serving these out of their disaster services truck. I was fortunate that the day I had to volunteer was the first day of the program.
Even though it was the first day, it was clear that the program was a well-oiled machine. Susanne Pummil, the volunteer cook, drawing on her experiences as a school cook, planned out a balanced menu to feed hundreds. Captain Doug Dolder, and his wife, Captain Bethannie Dolder, along with their maintenance worker Tony Sullenberger were getting the truck ready. Sean Ford, United Way Executive Director, was ready to drive the truck. I was there simply to do what was told.
For three hours, over 120 meals were served to our community’s youth at seven separate locations. It was amazing. The enthusiasm of the kids was palpable, though it seemed more were happy to see Captain Dolder, rather than the lunch. The 120 meals was a first day record; which you could read as either a sad or happy statistic. It’s surely wonderful when a great organization like the Salvation Army can pull out all the stops to feed the hungry and do so in record fashion. On the other hand, it’s sad that these are even problems that need to be addressed.
Food security is an important issue in America, and even here in Miami County. Recent data reported on from the website Feeding America, which provides information on hunger in America and access to information about our country’s food banks, showed that a staggering number of food insecure people live here in Miami County.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food insecurity means the lack of access, a times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of adequate foods. I learned that these food insecure households, aren’t food insecure all the time, but food insecurity comes at times where trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing, utility or medical bills come in conflict with purchasing nutritionally adequate foods.
So, how big is food insecurity in Miami County? Well, it seems, pretty sizable. In 2012, over one in four children (25.2%) of children in Miami County were food insecure. Of those kids, nearly forty percent are in households that are not eligible for any type of government funded assistance such as the SNAP program (Supplement Nutritional Assistance Program). It’s this fact alone that makes the Salvation Army’s Summer Feeding Program so necessary for our community. For nine months a year, these children are in school and not only are they there to get an education, but for many of these kids, it might be the best opportunity they have all day to get a good meal (or even two). When those school doors close in the summer, those kitchen doors close as well and access to a good meal is lost.
It’s important to know that food insecurity is an issue that as a community, we are tackling it together, with groups like the Salvation Army leading the charge. But, it’s not easy. Groups like the Salvation Army, are always looking for donations or willing souls willing to help out to solve this troubling problem. And fortunately, it doesn’t take a lot. Three hours of time can help feed 120 kids. A twenty dollar donation can help feed over a dozen children. Are we going to solve food insecurity? No, but we aren’t asked to solve the problem. We are asked to help the least, the last, the lost. Thanks to great organizations, like the Salvation Army, and the great people who work there, that opportunity to help is as easy as it’s ever been.
William (Bill) Lutz is a Miami County resident and weekly contributor to the Piqua Daily Call