We try to protect our children from everything- bumps on the head, growing up too fast and the harsh realities of life. But, how do we protect them from adversity?
A recent article by Alter Net’s Tana Ganeva showed that children in the Southern states have a 1 in 4 chance of growing up in poverty. Almost half of these children grow up in extreme poverty, meaning their families earn less than $11,476/year for a household of four. Lynn Parramore (AlterNet) states that ‘kids born in the Northeast, Upper Midwest and the West Coast have a better chance of getting ahead than kids born in other parts of the country’.
It seems as though our children, the next generation, is entering a cycle of adversity that will be hard to climb out of. Not only do they have to face the economic recession, waning Social Security and retirement budgets, but they may not be able to provide for their own families because they were born in the face of misfortune? If a child doesn’t eat balanced, nutritious meals or at all, the chances of falling back academically becomes greater as their concentration and development can be stinted. If they don’t perform well in school, the chance of them graduating high school and going on to college diminishes; if they don’t graduate, the likelihood of them going to college and getting a better job that allows them to provide for their own families become less and less. This is what is called ‘The Cycle of Poverty’ – it ultimately means that those who grow up hungry will face the same hardships with their own children.
As adults and parents, it can be a tough pill to swallow that our children are going hungry. Nationally, over 16 million children live in ‘food-insecure’ households and that sets the bar high for organizations like ours to find a solution to end hunger. More often than not, the focus on children without food is in faraway places that don’t mimic our own culture and society. However in a study last year, America placed next to last in a ranking of child well-being, barely beating out Romania.
The truth is hunger is in our own backyards, our schools, and our communities. Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey states “It is an uncomfortable truth that children in our state, our counties and even our own neighborhoods are hungry and they may not know where their next meal will come from….I cannot sit back and know children in our state are going hungry. It is time to take action.” With Alabama ranked as the 6th poorest state in the nation, with a child poverty rate of 27.5%, there has never been a truer statement- the time to take action is now.
Since 1986, the Montgomery Area Food Bank (MAFB) has fought hunger and poverty by distributing food and other necessities to over 800 Partner Agencies in 35 of Alabama's 67 counties, including some of the most chronically impoverished counties in the nation. Our current reach is more than 330,000 individuals every year, providing more than 20 million pounds of basic commodities, produce, and other necessities. Those we reach include children, seniors, the unemployed, low-pay working families and more seeking assistance throughout the state.
So where do you fit in? It’s as simple as volunteering your time, telling your friends about MAFB, or even giving something as small as $1; with one dollar we can provide up to 6 meals for a child in need. Our mission, to ‘Feed Hope Across Alabama’ is impossible without your support and together, we can help solve hunger.
Winter Storm Leon has received national attention and various nicknames as it halted the southeast to a standstill- #Snowpocalypse, #SouthernSnow, #ArcticAttack just to name a few. Around Montgomery, there hasn't been anything like it since the "Blizzard of '93", which was only about 4 inches with snow drifts up to 5-6 feet. And before that, an event like this hasn't happened since the 1970's. Our neighbors to the North find it difficult to understand how the South can shut down over 1-2 inches of snow and freezing rain, but I would challenge them to brave the heat and humidity during the summer months and see if the playing field is even.
Montgomery is central to commuters and businesses alike that travel and distribute to Birmingham and Atlanta, both of which were hit hard during the storm. Children were stranded in schools (11,000 in Alabama alone), abandoned cars were left on several major roadways, and jack-knifed truckers blocked interstates, leaving those stranded to fend for themselves until help came. Although a lot of the stories have been tragic in nature, we also have heard 'Stories of Hope'- those that braved the elements to rescue families and individuals out of their cars, teachers that consoled students throughout the night as they slept in schools, and countless acts of kindness for those that were left stranded. There was the manager that gave out 1,000 sandwiches from Chick-Fil-A to feed motorists left stranded on the interstate in the Birmingham area, and a doctor, that walked six miles to perform a life saving surgery. Unfortunately, there were 5 weather related deaths, and one amazing tale of a woman that gave birth to her child (Grace Elizabeth) while stranded in her car in the Atlanta area.
An article from AL.com put it perfectly with '5 things we've learned from the winter storm that shut us down' , Number 1. being 'Human compassion is alive and well'. That is the purpose of the Montgomery Area Food Bank--we believe in the power of human compassion. So rarely do we find that we can get past our anxieties and focus on the "bigger picture". And too often we forget that those around us, not just the homeless and destitute, but our neighbors, our community, need a helping hand. We forget that the definition of "working poor" has at least one employed adult in their home and they simply cannot bridge the gap between their expenses and their necessities.
Of the more than 300,000 people that the MAFB and their affiliate organizations serve, most are low-income workers and their families. These people live at or below 130% of the poverty line and face numerous adversities while trying to provide for their families.
It takes a disaster to focus in on the problem and bring it to the forefront, and for a short while, we all band together and reach out to those in our community.
Gandhi said it best "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others", and I think that's something we can all agree with.
For more information on the Montgomery Area Food Bank and how we reach those in need across 35 counties in Alabama- Find us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. Stroll through our website to find out more information about Volunteerism and 'Stories of Hope', or simply give us a call.