September is Hunger Action Month, and every year at Catholic Social Services that gives us an opportunity to talk about how food insecurity greatly impacts the lives of people in Anchorage.
One of our wonderful partners, Food Bank of Alaska, cites data around food security in Alaska. Nearly 103,000 Alaskans — roughly one in seven — struggle with hunger. Also, 20 percent of Alaska kids live in homes that may not have enough food, and roughly one in 10 Alaska seniors faces the threat of hunger.
Food insecurity does not look the same in every person you meet, and the situations look different than you might expect. Food insecurity does not just mean having no food, but includes having no choices about food. If you do not know when your next meal is coming, you may not pass up an opportunity to eat, even if the food is not healthy or nutritious. So much of the food available to all of us is not nutritious and does not provide meaningful calories. Empty calories increase the likelihood of poor health outcomes and do not meet our bodies’ nutritional needs. Ensuring the nutritional adequacy of donated food is an important consideration for food donors and pantry staff.
Food is a critical part of the local safety net and a basic need of all of us. At St. Francis House, we receive many donations of food from individuals like you in the community, and from business partners, to supplement the food we purchase through Food Bank of Alaska. That donated food is often the fresh food we are able to distribute. Healthy fresh options inspire our clients to eat healthy fresh food in general, and can literally brighten a person’s day. Recently one of our amazing volunteers at St. Francis House, Judy, brought in fresh vegetables she had grown in her garden. There were greens and cabbage for families to select as they walked through our aisles. Those healthy choices, for a person struggling with their physical health or trying to assure a balanced meal for their growing children, make a true difference.
In addition to health, this speaks to dignity and respect. Certainly expensive food is a luxury, but we are not talking about caviar and truffle oil, this is green vegetables and lean meat. A little can go a long way, but providing those choices reminds everyone that they, and their bodies, are a gift and worth a great deal. Our bodies deserve the care and consideration of healthy food.
We ask our clients at St. Francis House whether they were treated with dignity and respect, and last quarter, 100 percent said they were. That is how we beat food insecurity — we treat each individual with dignity, and give them options to make the right choices for their health and the health of their families.
This Hunger Action Month we are calling out to our Catholic Social Services’ family in Anchorage to step up and support St. Francis House Food Pantry. You can make a donation of funding, time or healthy food to support our neighbors who are struggling to feed themselves and their families.
“The generous will be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.” — Proverbs 22:9