We’re All In This Together

This month, Tina Postel and I attended the Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington, DC. Together with 1,300 hunger fighters from all 50 states, we shared information, best practices and concerns, especially over future funding of child hunger programs.  With a delegation from N.C., Tina and I spent a morning on Capitol Hill advocating on behalf of our clients by visiting with N.C. senators and representatives.

43 million people in America are food insecure and struggle to have enough food to eat.  Over 15 million of these individuals are children. I experienced embarrassment at the conference, although it was in an anonymous way.

                    Shay Merritt, Loaves & Fishes Volunteer and Food Drive Coordinator

In one of the workshops I attended, there was a slide listing the ten states with the most children living in poverty, and North Carolina was on it.  North Carolina has the tenth highest child poverty rate in the country.  There are 1.5 million people in North Carolina living in need and at risk of hunger. This number includes over half a million children.  In Charlotte, there are almost 150,000 people at risk of hunger, and over 50,000 are children.  We are better than this!

We know that children who experience hunger are more likely to suffer illnesses and broken bones, and their recovery takes longer than that of children who have enough nutritious food to eat.

They are more likely to exhibit behavior problems and miss more days of school.  Hungry children are more likely to fall behind in school and often decide to drop out by the age of 15.

We also know that poor children in Charlotte are likely to grow up to be poor adults.

Fighting hunger is so much bigger than providing food to people. Meeting the need is more than any one nonprofit, organization or congregation can address. It will take our local, regional and national communities working together, sharing resources and expertise, teaching, learning, thinking outside the box and trying new things to effect real change. Support from government at federal, state and local levels is crucial.  The systems and structure they provide are the bedrock for change.

We need to decide as a community to pull community resources together to address this community issue.  Charlotte is a strong, vibrant, city.  There are 7 Fortune 500 companies headquartered here and several hundred more have offices here.  We grew UNCC from a few buildings on Elizabeth Avenue to a 1000 acre campus.  We built a professional football stadium and team literally from the ground up. We kept NASCAR, and we got the Hornets back.  We have so many creative, active people of all ages, backgrounds and interests— imagine what we could do if we would focus time, energy and financial, physical and human resources to address child hunger!

There is wisdom in these words from Walt Disney via Zac Efron.  “We are ALL in this together.”  Let’s work together to create systemic change and build a better, brighter future for our city and our greatest resource: our children.