Hunger Awareness Month is a time to get educated about hunger issues that affect the people we serve. As you might expect, there is a close relationship between hunger and poverty in America. In the most recent Feeding America statistics available ( 2015), it was reported that 43.1 million people were in poverty in America and 42.2 million lived in food insecure households, including 13.1 million children. Furthermore, food insecurity exists in every county in America, ranging from a low of 3% in Grant County, KS to a high of 38% in Jefferson county, MS. Additionally, 59% of food-insecure households participated in at least one of the three major federal food assistance programs: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
Kids Count in Colorado reports that more than 180,000 children – 14.8% – live in families with incomes below the poverty line and 42.1% of children qualify for free and reduced lunch. So how does this stack up in Catholic Charities of Central Colorado’s 10 county service area? Four counties are basically at or above the national average for children qualifying for free and reduced lunch: Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Lake and Lincoln, while Teller, Park and El Paso counties are not far behind. More alarming is the fact that 8 out of the 10 counties we serve are at or above the national average for children in poverty. Only Douglas and Elbert counties are below the national average. We also have food deserts right here in El Paso county. According to Walk Score, only 6% of the Colorado Springs population live within a 5-minute walk to a grocery store. Now that is not completely shocking since we live in a very mobile society, but if you live in the downtown area, the southeast area, or a low income area of town with limited mass transportation and no personal vehicle, then getting to a grocery store can be problematic. Even if you live near restaurants, fast food establishments, or convenience stores, you might be in a food desert where affordable, quality, fresh food in not readily available.
At Catholic Charities, we fight hunger every day through the daily meal at the Marian House Soup Kitchen, where anyone is welcome to come and enjoy a meal, and through the hundreds of food boxes we distribute every year. Food boxes are distributed to seniors, families, people with disabilities, people in poverty, those in rural communities without resources, or those living in food deserts, or anyone who cannot come to the Marian House due to transportation, childcare, or other issues.
Poverty and Hunger go hand in hand. Join the fight today.