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Mid-South Food Bank re-grand opening spotlights need for less hunger, more hope

Teresa Dickerson, community relations for Kroger’s Delta Division, gave a tour of the big box grocer’s dedicated area at the new Mid South Food Bank facility on Perkins Road in July. (Courtesy photo)

by Latrivia Welch, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

One in five children are at risk for hunger.

That’s the first bit of information that pops up when you visit the Mid-South Food Bank’s website. You don’t have to be a parent to feel your stomach drop into your lap when you digest that fact. It makes you wonder what can you do to help, what your neighbor is eating for dinner.

And if the proverbial African question – “How are the children?” – means anything, then the disturbing poverty factoid also translates into the work we need to be doing, collectively.

I’ve taken a pause from highlighting awesome foodie phenomenon around the city to put the fixable situation of our community’s human starvation under the spotlight this week. In so doing, I can tell you upfront that there is hope in the silver lining.

Some of us are insecure about our bodies, our smiles or even our wardrobe. As we grapple with what purse matches what shoes and if the color of our new vehicle matches our complexion or personality, children across the Mid-South are food insecure.

According to the Mid-South Food Bank, food insecurity is “not always having access to enough food to meet basic needs.” A child wakes up hungry, goes to school hungry, comes home hungry and/or goes to bed hungry. Even if one meal is provided, they are worried about when and/or where the next one will come from.

In that regard, they’re not alone. Families and seniors are struggling to meet the basic human need for a sustainable healthy diet.

Updated Map the Meal Gap research released by Feeding America shows that in the Mid-South Food Bank’s 31-county service area, more than 370,370 people, or 17.8 percent of the population, are food insecure. The rate of child food insecurity is 21.6 percent. More than 110,000 Mid-South children are food insecure.

How can children concentrate on school or even have the fuel they need to perform, if they are too busy starving?

The United Nations Children’s Fund commissioned a study of undernutrition in children, finding that “children who come from food-insecure homes are often shorter than average height for their age or significantly underweight. They may also experience learning disabilities and other cognitive impairments.”

Some corporate and non-profit partners in Memphis are working hard to address the hunger issue in our city. That intersection of supply and demand blended beautifully when the Mid-South Food Bank had its grand re-opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony at its new location on Perkins last week (July 25).

Why is this so important?

According to its website, “Last year, Mid-South Food Bank distributed more than 13 million pounds of nutritious food to over 220,000 people through three basic initiatives focused on children, families and seniors.” Founded in 1981, the 501(c)3 non-profit organization’s mission is to change lives by eliminating hunger in the Mid-South.

Under the leadership of president and chief executive Estella Mayhue-Greer, Mid-South Food Bank serves over 400,000 people in 31 counties. Through individual gifts and community partnerships, human beings are afforded the opportunity to hope for a better tomorrow by receiving the sustenance they need today. It’s a lofty goal, but one accomplished daily through the efforts of others.

The 2017-18 Mid-South Food Bank annual report details that food sources come from community food drives (5 percent), USDA/FEMA (19 percent), local donors (14 percent), Feeding America (2 percent), National Donors (37 percent), and purchased food (23 percent).

I commend the many organizations and people who have contributed to this very important cause; contributors such as the Nation Enrichment Projects, which in January donated 20,000 cases of mac and cheese.

I’ve given to community food drives my entire life, and in generous amounts. However, as a foodie and a fine-dining aficionado, I concluded that I could do more to bring awareness to this most basic need. I decided to repurpose my goals for the upcoming year for my family and my charities. 

I began to question waste in our homes and communities. Just how much of what we throw away everyday could be repurposed to feed families, immediately? This line of thought led me to my good friend, Kroger Delta Division Community Affairs Manager Teresa Dickerson, who was also at the grand re-opening. Teresa walked me over to Kroger’s dedicated area of the Mid-South Food Bank facility, where food is held in large freezers. There is also an additional sorting area and redistribution site.

As we stood in a freezer as large as half a football field, Teresa pointed out where milk, eggs, bread and other staples were stored.

“I’ve shared this disturbing fact a thousand times, but I will share it a thousand more, if it raises awareness,” said Dickerson.  “Over 40 percent of all food produced in the United States is thrown away. Kroger believes we can do something about this through Zero Hunger Zero Waste.  The Mid-South Food Bank is one way we are donating food and ensuring it gets to the people who need it.”

Zero Hunger Zero Waste is a nationwide promise to America by the Kroger Corporation to eliminate waste in its company by 2025. There also are plans to establish a $10 million innovation fund through The Kroger Co. Foundation and to accelerate meal donations to 3 billion by 2025 through partnerships such as the one with the Mid-South Food Bank.

We must all come together and do something about the hunger problem in our community. Contact the Mid-South Food Bank to find out how you can volunteer. Work with your civic and non-profit groups to include the Mid-South Food Bank in your annual donor relation’s plan. Make a personal contribution to the Mid-South Food Bank and have family and friends do the same. This is too important to ignore!

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