Columnist Deena Rubin: Protect resources battling hunger

  • Amherst Survival Center volunteer Amy Millhollin, left, of Attleboro, Vermont, serves Paul Peelle of Amherst during a Community Appreciation Breakfast which was part of the center's 40th anniversary celebration of community support. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Sunday, April 30, 2017

My daughter Yael is an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer in Baltimore, sponsored by Hunger Free America, a national nonprofit group that enacts the policies and programs needed to end domestic hunger and ensure that all Americans have sufficient access to nutritious food.

Hunger and food insecurity harm one in six Americans and one in five children. Yael’s job is to build a nutrition program that could be used at the farmers markets. She educates people using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to help them make the best nutritional choice on their limited finances.

SNAP offers nutrition assistance in the form of money designated for food to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families. SNAP is the largest program in our domestic hunger safety net. AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons, helps to enroll their older members with low incomes in or near poverty in the SNAP program. They fight against hunger for one of the country’s most vulnerable populations.

Yael wrote a Facebook blog this week, “I was just behind two ladies in the grocery store, the first lady a single mom could not afford her groceries paying with SNAP. She struggled to choose which item to put away as she needed to feed her children. The lady directly in front of me decided the mom did not have to do that and paid for the rest of her groceries! Very heartwarming and important to see acts of kindness and strength in this world in this very trying time.”

Pope Francis said, “The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefiting the poor. What happens instead is that when the glass is full it magically gets bigger but nothing ever comes out for the poor.”

Today there are more people needing help and less help is available to them. No Kid Goes Hungry was founded under the belief that everyone has a strength to share in the global fight against hunger and poverty. They strive to identify and eliminate barriers that may prevent children from accessing food and nutrition services.

Feeding America supports food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters and after-school shelters through the provision of food.

Meals on Wheels was established to prevent hunger among seniors. The Meals on Wheels Association of America serves approximately one million meals a day to homebound seniors and adults with disabilities. This is often the only meal these seniors and adults with disabilities have for the day.

Locally, the Northampton Survival Center runs food pantries in Northampton and Goshen. The Survival Center distributes approximately 650,000 pounds of food each year. It has a Kids Summer Meal Program to bridge the summer nutrition needs by distributing free food packages to eligible children who rely on subsidized school breakfast and lunch during the school year.

It, along with the Amherst Survival Center, is dedicated to improving the quality of life for low-income individuals and their families by providing nutritious food and other resources in an atmosphere of dignity and respect. The Amherst Survival Center serves a hot lunch during weekdays and a light dinner.

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts improves food access through educational programming and outreach activities. Staff members are on site to provide assistance in SNAP applications, an often difficult and long process. Some places of worship also distribute food as well.

Volunteers are welcome to help in each of the above hunger organizations. In the new administration, there has been talk about eliminating funding to anti-hunger organizations as well as governmental assistance.

This is something we must speak about, and refuse to allow. Raise these issues with your legislators. We cannot be a strong and proud country if we have hungry Americans.

Deena Rubin is an educator who lives in Amherst.