By Joshua Serrano / Staff Writer
By Joshua Serrano / Staff Writer
Although the United States is often credited with being one of the most wealthy countries, many of it’s resident’s face the everyday struggle of persistant hunger.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that in 2009 of the estimated 49 million people living in food insecure households (up from 36.2 million in 2008), 32.4 million are adults (14.4 percent of all adults) and 16.7 million are children (22.5 percent of all children).
17.3 million people lived in households that were considered to have “very low food security”, a USDA term that means one or more people in the household were hungry over the course of the year because of the inability to afford enough food.
Very low food security had been getting progressively worse even before the recession.
The number of people belonging to the insufficient food category in 2009 is more than double what it was in 2000.
The USDA defines hunger as the uneasy or painful sensation caused by lack of food.
When referring to hunger in America, it pertains to the inability of people to obtain sufficient food for their household.
Some people may find themselves skipping meals or cutting back on the quality or quantity of food they purchase at the stores to accomodate their difficult financial situations.
This recurring and involuntary lack of access to food can lead to malnutrition over time.
The ability to obtain enough food for an active, healthy life is the most basic of human needs.
Food insecure households cannot achieve this fundamental element of well-being. They are the ones in our country most likely to be hungry, undernourished, in poor health and in the most need of assistance.
A high number of food insecure households in a nation with our economic plenty means that the fruits of our economy, and the benefits of public and private programs for needy people are not yet reaching millions of low-income people who are at great risk.
Luckily there are programs that are available to people of low income to help assist them during their time of need.
Through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, schools provide over 87,000 schools with nutritious meals for students of all ages, allowing them to work to the best of their potential and excell academically.
The Child and Adult Care Food Program is another program provided by Riverside County.
This is the only program that provides funding for meals served in a childcare catering to children ranging up to age 13 and also impaired adults.
The Food Stamp program provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. It can help participants buy the nutritious foods their family needs for a better diet.
There is no time limit for Food Stamps. Those enrolled in the Food Stamp program can receive the stamps for the extended period of time each individual is qualified for.
With Food Stamps, participants can choose the foods they buy at any authorized supermarket, grocery store or certified farmers’ market.
The amount of Food Stamps each individual is granted depends on their specific income and personal expenses. Many people who work full time even qualify for the program.
Another option for those who are struggling with hunger are temporary food facilities.
These food facilities are set up at a fixed location for a maximum of 25 days over a 90 day period.
However, food facilities must be sanctioned and of a civic, political, public or educational nature.
Examples of temporary food facilities are state and county fairs, city festivals, circuses and other public gathering events that are approved by the Environmental Health Department. Riverside County nutrition services offer a food assistance network that offers a toll free helpline that provides referrals to food assistance sites countywide.
The helpline promotes nutrition education and increased physical activity to food bank participants in an effort to improve family access to healthy foods.
The program is open to all Riverside county residents, particularly pregnant women and families with children through 5 years of age.
Interested individuals can apply for food assistance programs at their local Department of Public Social Services (DPSS).