By Executive Chef Ron Hall, Mercy Iowa City
“Hunger” is an ugly word and it is right in our own backyard. The truth about hunger in Iowa is inconvenient and unwelcome. There is a misconception that government programs and emergency food providers have resolved the hunger problem. Many people today assume mistakenly that hunger is not an issue. Actually, that is an illusion. The current food system does not provide enough affordable healthy food to all who need it.
One of the most disturbing aspects in a nation with economic plenty is the persistence of hunger. Hunger is defined as the uneasy or painful sensation caused by a lack of food. While starvation seldom occurs in this country, children and adults do go hungry. They make changes in the quality and quantity of their food in order to deal with a limited budget. They cut back or skip meals on a frequent basis. They forgo food to pay medical bills, rent, and utilities. When you live close to the edge financially, it takes very little to throw you into a crisis where you or your family go hungry.
Our local food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, and churches make up the private, nonprofit food sector. They supplement the food stamp program or compensate for those losing eligibility altogether. A reliance on in-kind food donations, increased demand, and a shortage of volunteer labor make their work even more challenging. Obviously, they can’t tackle hunger alone. We can make a difference for them if we choose to do so. The impact of our choices can bring about real change in our communities.
Let’s face it, most people don’t think about donating food until the holidays come around. Unfortunately, hunger is a year-round problem. Donations typically decline during the summer months. Local food pantry shelves are frequently near empty with volunteers wondering how they will meet the demand for assistance. They depend on the community to pull together for them.
It does take a community! I urge you to get involved with upcoming food drives and participation in local food relief efforts. The commitment does not need to be excessive but it does need to be ongoing. Your efforts will be appreciated more than you will ever know.
Executive Chef Ron Hall, Mercy Iowa City
Ron Hall organized the first Thanksgiving in July in 1999. Since then, the food drive has grown into a major community-wide event. Find out where you can donate to our 17th annual Thanksgiving in July.