NORTHERN HILLS — In this series, the Black Hills Pioneer staff attempted to examine hunger around us and its effects, and what we found is that it’s hard to track. Hunger is interconnected to a myriad of other issues related to health, wellness, education, productivity, wellbeing, financial security — or the lack thereof of all these items and more.
We may assume we know what hunger looks like or where we will find it, but “food insecurity,” or the lack of access at certain times to enough food for an active, healthy life, due to lack of money and other resources, crosses economic and geographic boundaries across all population indicators, which means that we often see hunger and don’t even know it. The well-dressed man standing in line behind you at the post office, or the family you pass on the rec path on your evening walk, or the elderly couple who live next door whose sidewalk you help to shovel: there’s an estimated 49 million Americans — 16 million of whom are children — who are food insecure, and they live within every county in the United States.
Think of the people you know: One out of every eight people in South Dakota is food insecure, according to 2013 data from Feeding South Dakota, a hunger relief organization, and that means we all interact with people every day who may not know from where their next meal is coming. That may come and go as circumstances change; food insecurity does not necessarily reflect a constant, but the fact that so many around us must choose between paying for housing, for medical needs, for utilities, or for food — the basic necessities for survival — should make us take another look around. Those statistics represent hungry families, hungry children, hungry seniors: hungry neighbors around us in our communities.
“I think hunger will always be with us, unfortunately,” Matt Gassen, CEO of Feeding South Dakota, said. He encouraged people to think about meeting people where they’re at, since so often we want to assess a situation based on what we see. All too often, that doesn’t reveal the real story. Gassen said that Feeding South Dakota strives to make sure people don’t go to bed hungry tonight: “And we’ll serve them again tomorrow to fill that gap, and the next day, and the next day.”
How does hunger affect families, children, seniors, those around us? We’ve tried to think about these questions through this series, and our greatest hope is that you continue to ask these questions of those around you to learn about your community’s needs and see the faces of hunger around us — and also see the ways that we can all help to ensure no one goes hungry tonight.