Everyone is at their best when they have enough to eat. Having enough food supports the foundation for optimal health and well-being throughout our lives. Nutritious food helps develop babies’ brains and bodies give kids the energy to excel in and out of school and reduce the risk of chronic diseases in adulthood.
Yet, 15.8 percent of Maine households, or nearly 200,000 individuals, are food insecure. It’s estimated that about 1 in 5 kids in Maine don’t know when or where they will get their next meal.
Hunger affects too many in our great state; you may have family members, neighbors, co-workers and friends who don’t always have enough money to afford food. On a tight budget, people often have to choose between paying rent, buying oil for heat instead of purchasing groceries. They may have to turn to already-strained food pantries and faith-based groups distributing emergency food, just to make ends meet.
Federal nutrition programs, along with state and local counterparts, play an important role in connecting children to needed food. By working together, we can ensure every child reaches their potential, which benefits all of us.
Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts a child’s health and can be a culprit of obesity, acute and chronic illnesses, and other medical concerns. When we don’t address the issue, we end up footing the bill for preventable conditions in the future. Hunger hinders education and productivity, stunting a child’s overall well-being and academic achievement.
Community-based programs and organizations will not solve child hunger alone. The federal government, along with its state and local counterparts, play an important role in ensuring children don’t have to worry about when or where they will get their next meal. It’s estimated that federal nutrition programs fund over 20 times as much food assistance as private charitable sources (Bread for the World), so it would be impossible for the already-strained food pantries, faith-based groups, and other community organizations to fill that gap completely.
Food banks/pantries, faith-based groups, and other community-based organizations often act as the “first responders” when people experience the unexpected, but they do not have the capacity to feed every person. Such a shift would lead to even more children experiencing hunger; thus, having an even larger ripple effect with impacts on individual health and well-being, education and productivity, and our state’s and nation’s economy.
Want to learn more: State of Maine Child Nutrition Dashboard