JOHNSON: Keep issue of hunger in mind on ThanksgivingThanksgiving is a special time of year to be with loved ones and reflect on the many blessings in our lives. While most families are fortunate enough to have plenty of food, especially on Thanksgiving, there are many individuals in our state and around the country that suffer from hunger.
By: U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, The Daily Republic
Thanksgiving is a special time of year to be with loved ones and reflect on the many blessings in our lives. While most families are fortunate enough to have plenty of food, especially on Thanksgiving, there are many individuals in our state and around the country that suffer from hunger.
It is simply wrong that hunger, which particularly affects children, the elderly and the disabled, is still prevalent today. The good news is that, with thoughtful budget decisions by Congress and the continued willingness of folks to help those in need, we can prevent hunger in South Dakota and across the country.
Hunger is not a new issue, but the rise in the number of individuals needing assistance is troubling. Even though we are the wealthiest nation in the world, there are many Americans who struggle to provide for themselves and their families.
The current economic downturn, coupled with rising food and energy prices, are among the many factors that have contributed to a spike in those needing nutrition assistance. For example, this past August more than 45 million Americans received nutrition assistance. That figure is up 8 percent from August 2010.
In South Dakota, more than 14 percent of individuals fall below the poverty line, which is one of the criteria used to determine eligibility for many of our nutrition assistance programs. According to Feeding South Dakota, a nonprofit hunger relief organization, food pantries in Rapid City and Sioux Falls serve a total of about 65,000 individuals a year.
There are several proven federal programs that I have consistently supported to help those who suffer from hunger. The Emergency Food Assistance Program provides commodities for use at soup kitchens and food banks. Additionally, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children provide much-needed resources to the most vulnerable among us.
These programs and other nutrition funding have recently been targeted by some in Congress. I understand that we need to get our budget in line, but we should not balance it on the backs of hard-working families, the elderly and the disabled who rely on these essential services.
In addition to encouraging lawmakers to support worthy nutrition programs, there are ways you can help end hunger in South Dakota. If you are fortunate enough to have extra resources, you can donate money or food to food banks or nonprofits that work to combat hunger. You can also volunteer your time working at a food bank or collecting food around your community.
As we gather again this November and eat our fill of Thanksgiving favorites, I encourage all of us to think about the importance of feeding programs and what we can do to help reduce hunger in South Dakota.