Monday, July 6, 2015

Hunger in Prince William County

According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2013, 49.1 million Americans lived in “food insecure” households, the official measure of food deprivation in America. The USDA defines food insecurity as not having consistent access to adequate food throughout the year. This is usually caused by poverty and a lack of other resources like transportation. People who are food insecure are simply hungry, or at risk of hunger. In the United States people go hungry every day. There are hungry people in every state and community in America, your community is not exempt, nor is mine.

Locally, the Capital Area Food Bank has been using “big data” and mapping to identify hunger’s unmet needs. The Heat Map allowed the food bank to look at the communities they serve in different ways and identify gaps between hunger identified and food delivered. While the food bank was providing food to the most urgent areas, the Heat Map revealed that some suburban areas with a lower concentration of people with food insecurity food needs were almost completely unmet. In Virginia the Heat Map revealed suburban neighborhoods where children lack access to healthy food, especially in the summer. The area of greatest need identified was Prince William County, but here is hunger in Fairfax, too.
From CAFB areas of  food insecurity

from CAFB areas of unmet food need
Prince William County, like all school districts offers free lunch. In 2014 there were over 26,000 children (or almost 31% of the school population) qualified for free lunches and another 8% of children received lunch at a reduced cost. During the summer, many children loose reliable access to food. According to the Capital Area Food Bank there are 14,000 children in Prince William County who are at risk of going hungry in the summer. To help address summer hunger Prince William County Public Schools is participating in the Summer Food Service Program. Meals will be provided at 21 of the county schools during their Summer School sessions. Meals will be available not only to kids enrolled in Summer School, but to any child age 18 and under from the surrounding community who care to eat. Meals will be provided to all children without charge.

The Capital Area Food Bank has begun a new summer food program for children that will run until August 28. With the help of a donation of $150,000 from Shoppers Food & Pharmacy the Capital Area Food Bank retrofitted a school bus that will distribute food at four locations in Manassas. From the end of June until almost the end of the summer, the food bank’s retrofitted school bus will make daily stops at four pre-selected sites to serve lunch to a total of about 300 kids. The bus allows the food bank to take reliable, healthy meals to parts of Prince William County that that food pantries were unable to reach before.

There are lots of ways you can help stop hunger. Donate usable food to a food bank, shelter, soup kitchen or other organization that feeds hungry people in your community. Donate money to programs. Give of your time and yourself.

Haymarket Food Bank
Capital Area Food Bank
House of Mercy (they are really nice, they accept excess fresh farm produce and return your crates clean)

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