At least 12.5% of Western Massachusetts residents are living below the poverty line, and that number is growing.
Last week marked the end of September, and also the end of Hunger Action Month, a national movement led by Feeding America and more than 200 regional food banks nationwide in order to raise awareness of hunger and food insecurity, bring to light the real faces of hunger, and offer solutions about how we can all work together to work towards a hunger-free future. Through this campaign, we work to show you that small but meaningful efforts can be made every day to help chip away at the problems of hunger and food insecurity in Western Massachusetts.
August rounded out with some discouraging news. New analysis of numbers provided by Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap project revealed that 22 percent of children in all four counties of Western Mass. are food insecure, meaning they don’t always know where their next meal will come from. In Hampden County, that number raises to nearly 25 percent, giving it the highest childhood food insecurity rate in the state.
With this news, those of us at The Food Bank were more resolved than ever to roll up our sleeves and work hard to get the word out about how prevalent hunger is in our community, ad what we can do to help. Looking closely at the problems that cause and lead to hunger and food insecurity can often lead to innovative solutions. Though emergency food distribution is critical, and is the backbone of what we do, there are many other ways The Food Bank and the emergency food network can work to reach sustainable ends to the problems that cause hunger. Through advocacy for responsible food policy, nutrition and cooking workshops, fostering collaborations between schools and farms, and partnering with community groups, we hope to work towards finding lasting solutions to the problems that cause local hunger.
On Thursday mornings in September, we highlighted this work, and made further connections, through the Hunger Action Month Speaker Series. Local experts, volunteers, dieticians, educators, and public health experts gathered bright and early at the Delaney House in Holyoke each week to discuss topics, including, The Real Face of Hunger, School Nutrition, Getting Local Food to Food Deserts, and Hunger and Obesity.
The series were a huge success, and the feedback we’ve been receiving has been wonderful. Some important stories were told, and some valuable connections made, further strengthening the work being done to fight hunger across the region.
Our work last month didn’t stop there. We led community members in intensive fundraising efforts, starting with they yearly ‘Fork it Over for Food’ campaign. In partnership with local restaurants, ‘Fork it Over for Food’ offers diners an opportunity to “tip” The Food Bank after their meals. And a very small amount goes a long way in fighting hunger. Did you know that $1 donated allows The Food Bank to provide $13 of food? Restaurants have started to send in their final tallies. Stay tuned to see how much we raised this year!
Perhaps the most exciting part of Hunger Action Month this year was the occurrence of our first annual ‘Will Bike 4 Food‘ charity bike ride against hunger. Over 100 cyclists participating in this year’s event, embarking on 25, 50, or 100 mile journeys through scenic Pioneer Valley. Participants were asked to raise funds leading up to the event, and we’re delighted to say that through their efforts, The Food Bank received more than $35,000. This is an incredible amount, especially for a small, first year event like this one. It’s a sure sign of ample potential for growth, and we’re already beginning to think of ways to make it bigger and better next year.
This September, the staff at The Food Bank tried hard every day to remind ourselves why we do the work that we do; and we tried to let you know as well. And through the hard work of community members like you, we were able to make a difference this month. As we move into the fall, we hope that you will keep the spirit of Hunger Action Month in mind. For information on how to become involved, visit our volunteer page, or call 413-247-9738. If you would like to make a donation, please visit our secure donation page.Comments Off
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