Consider the real costs of hunger in Fayette County

By Matt Habash - Guest Columnist

Hunger has no face. No name. No political affiliation. While hunger doesn’t discriminate, it does hurt.

Hunger has a steep cost for families and the communities in which they live. For Ohioans, hunger carries a price tag of $7 billion a year. It afflicts our healthcare system, erodes public education, depreciates a productive workforce and destabilizes homes by forcing seemingly impossible tradeoffs between spending decisions.

September is Hunger Action Month, a national effort to bring attention to the challenges facing hungry families in communities across the country, across Ohio and across the street. At Mid-Ohio Foodbank, our mission is to end hunger one nourishing meal at a time while co-creating thriving communities. We work with partner agencies in Fayette County to provide enough food for 1,815 meals a day. In 2016, that included 392,957 pounds of fresh produce – a key ingredient to improving health outcomes.

Yet there is still a gap. Across the Foodbank’s 20-county footprint, 165 million meals are missed each year. And if the budget for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is slashed as recommended in the President’s budget, that gap will increase exponentially. With a proposed cut of $193 billion over 10 years, representing a 25 percent cut or more than 50 million meals, charities like the Foodbank and its partners in Fayette County and elsewhere will be unable to meet the increased demand or fill the hunger void.

This Hunger Action Month, we at Mid-Ohio Foodbank ask that you examine your heart and your good sense about this most basic of needs — food. With one in six Ohioans facing hunger, chances are you know someone who doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from. We all have hopes and dreams for the future – and hungry neighbors are no exception. We all want the best for our families and ourselves. But life hands us all curveballs from time to time. Some struggles may be similar, but everyone’s story is unique.

Annie, a senior citizen on a fixed income, often had to decide between purchasing medications or food. Tony, who has been sober for more than seven years, works as many hours as he can get from his employer and earned a bonus for perfect attendance – a bonus that put him just over the income limit to receive food stamps or Medicaid. Five-year-old Autumn lives with her grandmother Frances, whose health issues forced her to leave her job of 44 years.

Facing tough times alone can be frightening, especially for those going to bed hungry… and costly for all of society. When we all work together to connect our hungry neighbors with nutritious food, we can stabilize families today — helping them access resources for tomorrow so they can thrive for a lifetime.

Please act now to help end hunger. Volunteer. Donate. Advocate. Together we can build healthier, hunger-free communities.

Matt Habash is president and CEO of Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

By Matt Habash

Guest Columnist