Food banks across America have seen a 46 percent increase in people seeking assistance since 2006, according to Feeding America, a leading domestic hunger-relief charity. Reductions in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) benefits will force those struggling into further hardship while increasing the demand on local feeding programs.
Americans are still having a hard time as the economy continues to weigh on households throughout the country and on Long Island. The Department of Agriculture finds that 49 million people in America in 2012 were uncertain of having enough to eat because of too little money or other resources. On Long Island, about 320,000 people -- more than one-third of them children -- struggle with not having enough to eat, and the faces of hunger are not what you would expect in a region of prosperity; they are working families, seniors and veterans, people put in the unenviable position of choosing between paying bills or putting food on the table.
Hunger is a public health crisis. Insufficient nutrition puts children at risk for illness and weakens their immune system, and as a result, adversely affects their ability to learn, grow and fight infections.
With cuts to SNAP and more on the horizon, and a still uncertain economy, local nonprofit programs are increasingly vital in providing supplemental food assistance.
We all have a duty to fight hunger. Nobody, especially children, should go through each day without sufficient food. Supporting local programs with food or funds -- no matter how small -- can have a great impact.
Randi Shubin Dresner, Mineola
Editor's note: The writer is the president of Island Harvest Food Bank, a hunger relief organization.
The Affordable Care Act includes as essential benefits preventive and wellness services and chronic disease treatment. This should serve to highlight how good nutrition prevents illness and chronic diseases, like diabetes. The American Diabetes Association estimates the cost of diagnosed diabetes at $245 billion a year. By contrast, food stamps are expected to cost taxpayers $76.4 billion this fiscal year.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, and more family holidays following soon, it's important to remember neighbors who might not be as fortunate.
When thinking about fundraising ideas for schools or activities, try collecting canned goods. When shopping for your family, buy a few extra provisions to donate to your local food pantry, soup kitchen or church. Or, in the spirit of the holiday season, make a donation to any of the national food support programs like Feeding America or Long Island's own Island Harvest. No one in our great country should go hungry, ever.
Sage Robinson, Holliswood
Editor's note: The writer is a student of health communication at Stony Brook University.