September 1, 2012
Throughout September, anti-hunger networks and community providers across the country will be urging people to speak out against hunger in our country. There are currently around 49 million Americans who struggle with hunger and its vast implications. The challenges that so many of these people face often go unheard and therefore unmet. Speaking out against hunger is a powerful action that we can take to help out friends and neighbors who struggle with food insecurity.
Here in Colorado, childhood hunger is a dire and growing problem. One in every 4.5 families with children in Colorado reported difficulty in paying for food last year. The lack of nutrition that these children struggle with affects not only their health but their ability to grow, learn, and succeed in school and elsewhere. Hunger and malnutrition also leads to higher rates of chronic illness, depression, and emotional problems. It leads to higher dropout rates and lessens children’s ability to participate in sports and other health and enriching activities. Malnutrition amongst children deeply affects their development. Therefore, it demands our immediate concern and attention.
In combating this grim situation, we at the Colorado State Capitol, in partnership with Hunger Free Colorado and Share Our Strength, are more than half way into the No Kid Hungry Colorado Campaign. This campaign seeks to end childhood hunger in Colorado by 2015. Colorado communities have local champions at several levels; organizations like Food Bank of the Rockies play a vital role in addressing these issues and helping to connect families with several avenues to ensure healthy and nutritious foods are accessible. Much has been accomplished and many milestones have been met throughout this campaign. But more must be done.
No Kid Hungry Colorado has made enormous strides in connecting children to sources of nutritious meals at schools, libraries, churches, summer camps, community centers, and elsewhere. We are serving a growing number of healthy meals to children year round as well as educating them and their families on how to eat healthier. Furthermore, we have engaged several layers of outreach to provide easier access to federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). No Kid Hungry Colorado is actively striving to make it easier on families to obtain a healthy meal for their children and improve the well-being of their entire family.
We in Colorado firmly understand the notion that one cannot look at the three issues of hunger, housing, and literacy separately. These three issues are interconnected and inseparable. Therefore, for the first time this past summer, we sent trained volunteers to various summer food sites to serve as a resource guide for families that may be eligible for federal and state benefits. Our volunteers were able to assist families by making them aware of certain benefits, directing them towards applications, and in some cases, even sitting down with them to help begin an online application. By connecting people with housing and food assistance, we are simultaneously stimulating the economy as well. The Food Resource and Action Center reports that for every one dollar a SNAP recipient spends, there is an economic benefit of $1.73. We are very proud of the successes that this new program was able to achieve and look forward to building on these successes in the future.
Although our efforts have been fruitful, there is still much more that needs to be accomplished. Participating in Hunger Action Month is one of the many ways that we can keep this conversation going so that communities can come together to address the issue. By committing our voices to this cause throughout the month of September, we can unite to create positive change surrounding this critical problem.
Governor John W. Hickenlooper