Many of us this afternoon are thinking about what’s for dinner tonight. The menu might be long: burger, pizza, sushi, or casserole. But there’s another dilemma for 1 out of 7 Nebraska households. That challenge is how to cobble together enough food for the folks around the table.
“Food hardship” is the term the national Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) uses to describe the problem families face when, in the past year, they’ve not had enough money to buy food. In 2011, 14.4% of Nebraska households faced food hardship. That’s hard to reconcile with our location in America’s breadbasket. Yet the fact remains that even in a state with expanses of farm land and ranches, many families are worried about how to feed their kids. We can – and should – do better.
Programs like SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) have helped fill the gaps for some families. Given the increasing poverty rates we’ve seen among Nebraska kids, it’s not surprising that the number of children enrolled in SNAP has grown too. In June 2010, 83,597 Nebraska children received food stamps, up from 71,038 the year before.
Seeing an increase in SNAP utilization is a mixed bag. On the one hand, we never want to see more kids and families struggling to stave off hunger. On the other, safety net programs should keep pace to meet the needs of increasingly impoverished and hungry Americans. Either way, food stamps help lift families from poverty – especially families with children.
No child should go hungry. Fortunately, there exists not just a public safety net but also public-private partnerships that help. Hunger Free Heartland, for example, is an Omaha-based coalition that aims to eliminate hunger in the metro. In this area alone, 1 out of 6 kids don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
If it bothers you that so many kids in the land of plenty have so little, you aren’t alone. Want to help? Here are some ideas.