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Nestled in the fertile San Joaquin Valley; just miles from Silicon Valley, lies Merced County, California, which is home topeople, and 21, of our children are hungry. When you rank all U. Merced County is ranked 3rd highest in the nation - only Hidalgo and Cameron counties in Texas have more hungry children and a higher child food-insecurity rate than Merced County - according to the latest Map the Meal Gap report.

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Merced, California

Nestled in the fertile San Joaquin Valley; just miles from Silicon Valley, lies Merced County, California, which is home topeople, and 21, of our children are hungry. When you rank all U.

Merced County is ranked 3rd highest in the nation - only Hidalgo and Cameron counties in Texas have more hungry children and a higher child food-insecurity rate than Merced County - according to the latest Map the Meal Gap report. That report, released earlier this month by our partner organization Feeding America, collates data from the U. Department of Agriculture, the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Current Population Survey to stitch together a portrait of food insecurity at the state and county levels.

Merced profile

The report showed that the face of hunger has changed, and houae has its address. Rural counties make up 63 percent of all 3, U. Merced County is most certainly rural; with our long growing season and fertile soil, along with some of the largest concentrations of fruit and nut farms and dairies in the United States. Our spring tapestry is colored by sprays of peach and nectarine petals, pink bouquets of apricot blossoms, and a white blaze of almonds, plums, and apples.

Our tree-shaded country ro, dotted with farm stands overflowing with fresh produce; picked from local farms - deep with family roots and tradition - portrays a beautiful rural agricultural community. But, many bouse do not realize underneath this beauty lies a difficult and persistent struggle with hunger.

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So often, we read and hear Wife seeking nsa Rockholds the dire statistics related to our challenges here in Merced County and throughout the Central Valley. So much so, that many of us myself included have become a little desensitized to the reality of life here for tens of thousands of our neighbors. Rural communities, like Merced County, mecred and have been facing a perfect storm of issues that contribute to our challenges with hunger.

Poot primary issues include concentrated poverty, unemployment, per capita income and the rising cost of nutritious foods.

There are 3, counties in the United States, and of them have populations of more than 99, Having grown up in Northern Appalachia along the West Virginia border, I am familiar with what impoverished communities looked like then and now. Often, Appalachia is referred to as the epicenter of poverty — and rightly so. However, statistically speaking, our neighbors are facing more collective challenges here than any other part of the country. For instance, of the ten U. Similarly, of the top 31 counties in the nation with the highest child food-insecurity poro and those that had more than 10, hungry children.

The Central Valley also had 3 of the top 17 most impoverished counties and 3 of the 12 lowest income per capita counties.

Our county’s child food-insecurity rate is %.

Look across the communities served by the Merced County Food Bank during the summer months and you will see sweet potatoes, dairies, almonds, and tomatoes as far as the eye can see. How can it be that in this fertile, flourishing agricultural community, there are 90, people facing hunger; medced nearly 22, children?

But, few are aware that communities like ours are often the hardest hit by hunger and food insecurity. Food insecurity means — not having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

Food insecurity can be seen as more of a hidden mrced, because the people that experience it often still have a house and a car, yet due to an outstanding circumstance, they could have lost the ability to maintain their lifestyle. In these cases, many people start making trade-offs that involve facing hunger versus paying for transportation, housing, medications, and other bills that they need to sustain.

The image of hunger in America today differs markedly from Depression-era images of the gaunt-faced unemployed scavenging for food on urban pior. Today, more working people and their families are hungry because wages have declined while other costs have risen.

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For example, recent data from USDA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics Horny seniors loudon tn that while wages stayed basically stagnant betweenthe consumer cost index went up 4. During the same period, food costs rose 6. When faced with a limited budget and hunger, bills go unpaid because, when push comes to shove, food wins out.

The added complication of having a limited budget and a family to feed, also forces people to choose less nutritious food in favor of more filling foods.

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For many of the hungry in our community, the extra pounds that result from a poor diet are collateral damage—an unintended side effect of hunger itself. Here dinners are cooked using macaroni-and-cheese mixes and other processed ingredients from food pantries, and fresh fruits and vegetables are eaten only in the first days after the SNAP payment arrives. Here pocketing food from work and skipping meals to make food stretch are so common that such practices barely register as a way of coping with hunger and are simply a way of life.

Are all accurate — based on my experience. Hunger and poverty are indiscriminate, but they seem to effect children at substantially higher rates than others. For example, based on US Census school data for children aged 5 — 17, children in our communities are under siege by poverty. Nationwide, there are nearly 13, school meeced.

Of those, there are 2, with more than 25, children attending them. The poverty rate for those schools ranged from So, with all that said. What can merfed do as a community to fight hunger?

In a nutshell — support the Merced County Food Bank through your donations, time or food. Por are working mercec to increase the quality and quantity of the food available to the low-income community. This year, we increased the amount of fresh produce in our distribution network by over 1, pounds. We are working with all of our partners to reduce the amount high sodium, sugar and processed foods donated.

We are partnering with numerous Merced County departments to help provide more resources to seniors, increase outreach for CalFresh, and reduce food waste. Over the coming year, our primary focus area will be directly addressing child hunger.

One of the first projects underway is the development of pilot programs for a backpack program for hungry children. The Kids Backpack Program will provide weekend food packages to meerced hungry elementary school students from low-income households who are at risk of hunger over the weekend when free school meals are unavailable.

Every Friday afternoon students will discretely be given a bag of food which is tucked into their backpacks. Each bag contains enough food to see the students through the weekend, and the discreet distributions remove the stigma that might be attached to the program. If you have not yet donated to the Food Bank, we encourage you to support this project and help us feed our children. Merced, CA.

To learn more about us, go to www.