Hunger Action Month 2022

Hunger Action Month 2022

Delivering food to pantry clients with DoorDash

Hunger Action Month is a campaign to spread awareness about food insecurity and hunger in the United States. With more than 34 million people  being food insecure, it’s an ongoing and important issue for the country. As we’re about halfway through Hunger Action Month, we thought it would be a good time to write about the state of hunger in Texas and in our service areas. According to Feeding America, over 3.7 million people are facing hunger in Texas, which amounts to about 1 in 8 people in our home state. How many people are in your office? In your child’s classroom? Given that 1 in 8 people face hunger in Texas, how many people might be in your office? How many people at the grocery store? How many of your neighbors? You might know someone who is hungry!

We also know that children are not strangers to the issue of hunger: 1 in 5 children face hunger in Texas, and 53.4% of households receiving SNAP have children. Hunger in children is a particularly detrimental issue. Children who are hungry face learning difficulties, educational setbacks, nutrient deficiencies, and other health issues. 

A client waits in line to receive food through one of our community partners.

Imagine you are back in elementary school, enjoying the fun and adventure that 4th grade brings. Now imagine going to class without breakfast, sitting through the first several hours of class before you can enjoy the lunch provided by school. Would you be able to focus on your schoolwork? Many students facing hunger struggle with focus.

Target Hunger served 16,654 unduplicated individuals in 2021 and distributed 1.35 million meals. Additionally, about 34% of our clients were under the age of 18. As we make our way through the end of Hunger Action Month, these numbers loom large in our heads. Food continues to be a very real need in our community year-round. As long as there is a need, we will be here to serve. We hope you will join us in the fight against hunger by making a donation or signing up to volunteer. You can also spread awareness by sharing this post with your friends and colleagues and following us on social media.

Resources:

https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america

https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/texas#:~:text=In%20Texas%2C%203%2C720%2C710%20people%20are,of%20them%201%2C395%2C890%20are%20children.&text=face%20hunger.,to%20meet%20their%20food%20needs.

A Grandmother Helping her Widowed Son Raise his Family

Growth in our Navigation Services – Providing Hope and Resources

This week we want to share more about our Navigation Services – a program that goes beyond the need for food to help clients with the root causes of hunger. What started as an informal conversation between our home delivery drivers and clients has become a team with four dedicated staff in the last two years. Our amazing team of Community Health Workers connects families with resources for any number of issues, from assistance in applying for SNAP benefits or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, to connecting families with other nonprofits who can provide much needed resources like car seats and baby formula. Thanks to the support of Houston Methodist and The United Way of Greater Houston, we have been able to expand our program’s reach and have added additional staff. 

Juanita’s Story – A Grandmother Helping her Widowed Son Raise his Family

Juanita with her son, Benjamin, and his children

Juanita is a 69-year-old retired grandmother living in Denver Harbor. Seven months ago, her daughter-in-law passed away from pre-eclampsia giving birth to her 5th child, a boy named Jasper. “It happened from one day to the next, it changed my whole life,” she said remembering dropping her daughter-in-law at the hospital during the pandemic.

Juanita has stepped in to help her son, Benjamin, who is now widowed with 5 young children. She makes daily visits to her son’s house, making the home cooked meals her grandchildren love and watching over them while her son works. The oldest, Jaxon, is 10 years old and has autism. Then there is hyper, 8-year-old Gavin, and 7-year-old Liliana who loves mermaids. Oliver is 2 years old, just a year and a half older than baby Jasper.

While caring for the kids brings great joy to her life, the struggle to provide household necessities is very real. Despite needing knee surgery, she spends much of her day finding resources and caring for the kids. Juanita describes herself as a responsible woman and mother, never needing outside help. She “went through a lot of things,” but she says they made her stronger. When she was introduced to Mildred, one of our client coordinators at the Denver Harbor pantry, she felt a wave of relief. “Mildred has always been so helpful since I met her.”

The family receives SNAP benefits, but it is not enough to cover the family’s needs. Juanita receives food through our pantry program and attends Food Fairs as needed. Additionally, our Navigator Shirley was able to help Juanita get diapers and baby formula after the family ran out. They receive WIC for baby Jasper, but they ran out of formula before their next appointment. Our Navigation team was also able to refer the family to Bo’s Place for grief counseling. “These children, especially the oldest, they tell me every day ‘I miss mom,’” Juanita explained with tears in her eyes. Shirley is now assisting the family to find school uniforms before the start of the school year.

Though times are tough, Juanita is strong for herself and her family. “I don’t have any shame what I’m going through. I love what God has given me, all the doors he’s opened for me in this journey.” Drying her tears and with hope in her voice, Juanita says she is grateful for the support she receives from Target Hunger. “Just the words, ‘do you need anything?’ it’s so wonderful to hear.”

The Toll of Rising Gas and Grocery Prices

The Toll of Rising Gas and Grocery Prices

A Target Hunger client posing while waiting to receive her monthly groceries.

Watching the news this summer, you’re sure to find the often-seen clip of a consumer at a grocery store or gas station, discussing their shock at the higher prices compared to the last week. You relate to the story, feeling the slight surge in frustration for your piggy bank and concern that prices will keep climbing. As the segment ends and moves to the next story, many of us can forget these feelings until we go for our next fill-up or grocery shop, or the next gas and grocery price story appears on the news. Our thoughts about the costs of these daily needs are very environmentally driven. But what if you couldn’t forget the story? What if your budget was providing your family with significantly less food than it had the week before, leading you to wonder if that food would last you through the week? What if your day revolved around the fluctuating price of gas – wondering if you had enough, calculating the exact mileage needed to get where you need to go? 

These are the questions that Target Hunger clients face daily as prices for basic needs continue to climb. Joyce, a monthly pantry recipient, told us she struggles with the cost of groceries as prices are rising. It’s no wonder clients like Joyce are struggling, as food prices in June of 2022 were 10.4% higher than June of 2021 (USDA). This steep climb in prices is a result of many things, including supply chain difficulties from the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine. Proteins have increased most significantly, by 11.4% (eggs) to 16.2% (beef), and dairy by 5.2%. Fresh fruits and vegetables are not immune either, at 10.6% and 4.3% respectively. With such high prices, many families are turning to outside help to supplement their grocery needs. Joyce is thankful for the fresh fruits and vegetables she receives through Target Hunger, because “when I go to the store, all I have to worry about is meats. The cost of meat is so high now.” 

Watermelons, a favorite summer fruit, for distribution at our last July Food Fair.

With income limitations on the pantry program, some clients turn to our Food Fairs to receive the supplemental foods their income just doesn’t cover. Clients can attend as many Food Fairs as they need, with 5 offered each month. At the last Food Fair in July, clients received a wide variety of fresh produce including whole watermelons, strawberries, carrots, mandarin oranges, greens, and broccoli. They also received some pantry staples including microwavable chili, pinto beans, and rice. Volunteers delighted in the smiles of the many children that passed through with their families, grinning ear to ear when they saw the big watermelons and juicy strawberries delivered to their trunks. 

As needs remain high, we will continue to serve our community in every capacity. Times are tough, but helping our neighbors makes each day a little bit better. You can provide relief by donating to our programs or by signing up to volunteer at one of our community food fairs.  

 

Sources:

https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-price-outlook/summary-findings/

https://www.npr.org/2022/03/31/1090086246/grocery-store-food-prices-increase-2022-usda-report