Numbers on hunger tough to swallow

Thom Hanrahan Brownwood Bulletin Editor

Since I arrived in Brownwood, I have noticed an incredibly giving and caring community.

Among the first people I got to know here in town were Angelia Bostick and Misty Bowers of Good Samaritans ministries.

GSA does fantastic work out of its building at 305 Clark St. in Brownwood.

It helps school children get the food and nutrition they need through its Food for Thought program. The schools may provide free or reduced meals to students during the week, but food for thought helps fill the gap during the weekends for young people in Brown County.

Its Deer Project is a thing of wonder for a guy like me that was raised in a major metropolitan city. This program lets hunters bring legally harvested and tagged deers to participating processors. The meat is then givent to GSA to provide good, lean protein to the hungry of Brown County.

There is, of course, the organization’s food pantry and clothing ministry and the many other day-to-day things it does to ease the burden of some of our neighbors who might need a hand now and then.

Last week’s Empty Bowls event at the Brownwood Coliseum was really something to behold.

More than 900 people came to eat a simple meal of soup, bread and water. Then, they took home a hand-painted bowl to remind them that hunger is an ongoing and serious problem. Even in a land of plenty like the United States, hunger is a serious issue.

According to Feeding America, one in six Americans struggles with hunger. Many of those are not homeless or even unemployed, either.

Many of them just simply find too much month at the end of the money. They sometimes have to make choices between other basic necessities and a full belly.

And many of these are the most innocent among us.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 15.9 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they don’t get the proper amount of food and nutrition to lead a healthy and productive life.

Feeding America says that according to the most recent data available that 20% percent or more of the child population in 37 states and D.C. lived in food insecure households in 2011.

One in five children the world’s wealthiest nation go to bed hungry.

Sit on that one a minute and then read on.

Nearly 14 million children are estimated to be served by Feeding America, more than 3 million of which are ages 5 and under. Medical experts agree that the first handful of years of our lives shape to a large degree the trajectory of our future health.

But what about the other side of the chronological spectrum?

Feeding America reports that in 2040 there will be 79.7 million older adults, more than twice as many as in 2000.

The organization says that 18.6 percent of its client households have at least one member who is age 65 or older.

And according to its data, in 2011 4.8 million Americans over the age of 60 were food insecure. This constitutes 8.4 percent of all seniors.

And while picking out the colorful bowl that holds Easter jelly beans on my desk, Bostick told me something interesting that I promise you will hear about in these pages should it come together.

GSA is working on a program to address hunger among seniors.

If you will pardon the metaphor, as if GSA didn’t have enough on its plate with all the other programs, it continues to find ways to reduce suffering and discomfort. That is why I visit often, even for just a cup of coffee. They remind me how fortunate I am and that I need to give back.

It takes $50,000 a month to keep GSA going. And Brown County needs it and the other food pantries and ministries that serve the public and seek to reduce the problem of hunger.

That’s why they gave us a simple meal and a bowl Thursday. To keep the message in front of us that hunger in America — in Brown County — is real and it is significant.

Message received.

Thom Hanrahan is the editor of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sundays. He may be reached by e-mail at thom.hanrahan@brownwoodbulletin.com.