Hunger Day brings awareness

Today marks a day to recognize the hungry.

June 7 is declared “National Hunger Awareness Day” by the U.S. Senate. Millions of Americans struggle with hunger and food insecurities — and a study done in 2010 states 6,000 of those people live in Auglaize County.

A local food pantry is recognizing this national day.

“I think in a pretty little town, where we have hungry and homeless people, it is important to get the word out,” Mercy Unlimited Food Pantry Manager Valerie Coffey said, “and help people in our own backyard.”

Mercy Unlimited serves approximately 360 clients per month and during the summertime months the needs tends to increase.

Many may wonder who are the hungry.    

“They are the unemployed, under-employed, disabled and elderly,” a news release from Mercy Unlimited says. “They are those who lives have met financial hardship due to illness or tragedy. They are your neighbors and mine.”

Households with children experience food insecurity at twice the rate than those with no children.

Coffey said the summer months result in a greater need because the school-aged children are no longer in session at school, so while they were getting free or reduced breakfasts and lunches during the school year, they are no longer getting them in the summer, so families are faced with providing those meals on a “wallet that was already too thin.”

“It puts a bigger dent in people’s budgets,” Coffey said of summer months.

Coffey said with the growing number of people who are in need of food assistance programs, it is hard to put dinner on the table.

“There are a lot of gaps in the system, and if you don’t qualify (for food assistance programs) it is hard to put food on the table,” Coffey said.

According to the news release, even if a family receives food stamps, it leaves a huge gap in the family’s budget. The average recipient is provided the equivalent of around $4 per day, which leaves $28 for 21 meals. This figure makes it hard to provide nutritious and fresh foods. And with people not qualifying for these programs, it make the gap wider.

“Through the generous donations by businesses, families, organizations and individuals, Mercy Unlimited is trying to help bridge the divide,” Coffey said. “Our highest time of need is during the summer months when donations are usually down. People get busy with vacations and spending time at the pool and just don’t think about donating outside of holiday time.”

Food pantries provide approximately 29 percent of the food needed to fill the meal gap.

“As summer blooms into abundance, I hope each of us will remember that many here in Wapakoneta and eastern Auglaize County do not have enough to eat,” Coffey said in the news release. “Mercy Unlimited is an important part of the chain that allows another meal to be served. We are glad to be a vital part of relieving parents’ worry about feeding their children another day.”

Coffey challenged people to think about if they could live on a small budget and encouraged others to donate a day’s worth of food to people who have less.