Assembly 2015 / Newsroom

At Assembly, anti-hunger advocate says hunger in America at its highest level in decades

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June 19, 2015

By CBF Communications

DALLAS— Hunger in America has reached its highest level in decades and affects every community in the United States, an anti-hunger advocate and researcher told workshop participants Friday at the 2015 General Assembly of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Alexis Weaver, who serves as research and development specialist at the Atlanta Community Food Bank (Atlanta, Ga.) shared statistics from Feeding America highlighting the growing problem of food insecurity in the US.

“49 million people in the United States struggles with hunger and 1-in-6 people in our country do not have access to enough food to feed their families,” Weaver said.

Suburban hunger has more than doubled since 2007, she said, and children, the elderly and minorities are disproportionately affected by hunger, including 15.5 million children who are especially vulnerable during the same summer months when school is out.

“While hunger can affect anyone, these groups are the most significantly impacted by food insecurity,” Weaver said.

Weaver noted that many of the gains in the current economic recovery were low-wage jobs. While higher-wage jobs have recovered since the Great Recession, she said, mid-wage jobs that were lost have not been replaced and people in mid-wage occupations with higher education and skill levels have taken on low-wage jobs. This new reality and new face of hunger has left many lower-skilled workers unable to find jobs and has exacerbated the problem of food insecurity across the country, Weaver emphasized.

“Each year, 69 percent of [food insecure] households have to choose between paying for utilities and food,” Weaver said. “62 percent have to choose between transportation and food, 66 percent between food and medical care, 57 percent between food and housing and 31 percent between education and food.”

Families are coping with these challenges and tradeoffs by purchasing unhealthy foods due to the low cost.

“They know they have health issues that nutritious food would solve, and they want to give their children good food, but don’t feel they have another way to make ends meet,” Weaver said.

Weaver offered strategies and resources for congregations to confront hunger in their communities, encouraging participants to connect with their local food bank.

“First and foremost, by partnering with a food bank, your program has access to much more diverse sources of food and helps your ministry leverage its dollars,” Weaver said. “Connecting with a food bank also allows you and your church to be part of the wider anti-hunger community and stay tuned to best practices around addressing hunger.”

Weaver stressed the importance of adapting a church’s hunger ministry in a way that best meets the needs of families.

“Given what we know about hunger, one best practice is to adopt days and hours that meet the needs of hungry families. If 54 percent of client households are working, does 10 a.m. on a Thursday meet the needs of those people,” Weaver asked. “Or is opening an additional time on a weekend or evening going to reach a different set of people?”

She suggested that hunger ministries and programs should focus on fostering a sense of dignity to positively impact a client’s confidence, practice hospitality, always put clients first, find and be mindful of clients with special dietary food needs such as those with diabetes.

A successful hunger ministry requires community building, she noted.

“The question isn’t just who is hungry, but how do you address it,” Weaver said. “A great first step is finding out who else is out in your community doing similar work. With 49 million hungry Americans in the U.S., it will take all of us working together to address this challenge.”

“A successful community building approach is going to always involve asking questions and seeking partners. Simply finding a way to network with others like you is a great first step.”

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CBF is a Christian Network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry eff­orts, global missions and a broad community of support.The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.

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