September is Hunger Action Month. Together, we can take action to fight hunger in our community. Since 2008, the number of individuals who visit the Howard County Food Bank has increased from 3,800 to over 22,000. These are your neighbors.
About 50 percent of individuals who visit the food bank are senior citizens on fixed incomes. Eighty percent are female and 40 percent earn less than $20,000 per year. Some of the families are receiving SNAP funds, formerly known as food stamps. Did you know that the daily food budget while on SNAP is $4.50 per day or $31.50 a week?
If you stop by the food bank on any distribution day, you'll see that families begin to line up starting at 11 a.m. even though it doesn't open until 1 p.m. This is because the inventory of food is limited and they are hoping by getting their early they may have a better chance of going home with enough food for a few days. This is not always easily achievable.
The Howard County Food Bank is open for distribution three days a week and staffed by four individuals. It collects donations, holds food drives, distributes and delivers food to those in need, and supports 12 pantries in Howard County. Additionally, there is a community garden offering low-income families access to fruits and vegetables they otherwise cannot afford to purchase. More than 500 individuals support the garden by spending an hour or two each Saturday from April through November to help plant, water, weed and harvest fruits and vegetables. Last year, more than 2,000 pounds of produce was harvested.
Here are a few ideas about how to help and speak out against Hunger in Howard County: Volunteer at the CAC Food Bank (8920 Route 108, Columbia), make a donation (every $1 equals three meals for our neighbors in need), or volunteer at the Community Garden (across from Long Reach High School). You might also friend Community Action Council of Howard County on Facebook, hold a food drive (call for a list of needed items), take part in the Go Orange campaign or simply contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bita Dayhoff, Columbia
The writer is president of the Community Action Council of Howard County.