What is holiday hunger?
No turkey, no stuffing, no potatoes. No extra food in the kitchen. No moments of merry with deliciously hot, fresh rolls, baked ham and string bean casserole. No holiday cookies. No hot chocolate. For many households throughout South Jersey, the holiday season is not a time for bountiful kitchens filled with warm holiday traditions and plates rich with food. For many individuals, families and seniors living in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties – and beyond – the holiday season in South Jersey is not unlike any other time of the year.
Food insecurity knows no holiday.
- Do you know what holiday hunger looks like – the childhood face of holiday hunger? Quite likely, you look into the face of childhood holiday hunger everywhere you go. Schools. Churches. Playgrounds. As the holiday season takes hold, food-insecure children throughout the United States are at risk of malnutrition, ill-health and hunger due to a holiday hiatus from the vital nutrition presented by free or reduced-price school meals. Though holidays are typically a festive time, the season comes with intense stress for children relying on free or reduced-price school meals to maintain basic nutrition. When schools close for the holidays, many food-insecure families struggle to fill the gap to keep their children fed. In America today, one in seven children may not know where, when or how they will get their next hot meal. For the 11 million children facing food insecurity right now in the United States, getting the energy they need to enjoy the holiday season can be a challenge – especially as they are deprived of school meal programs that sustain them.
- Did you know, this holiday season in Camden County alone, there are 17,200 food-insecure children? Of these children, 24% are currently ineligible for federal nutrition programs, and 76% are currently income-eligible for nutrition programs – as of today. Overall in Camden County alone, the total food-insecure population is over 60,000. Food insecure populations in Burlington, Gloucester and Salem counties are equally sobering. Burlington County currently has 41,680 food-insecure residents, of which 10,960 are food-insecure children. Gloucester County holds 8,180 food-insecure children in a total food-insecure population of 26,860 individuals. Suffering the impact of rural hunger, the less populated farmlands of Salem County shows 8,080 food-insecure individuals, of which 2,550 are children – all of which may live more than 10 miles from the nearest grocery store
- What about seniors? Did you know the most recent report, released in 2019 by Feeding America using 2017 data, found that 5.5 million seniors, or 7.7% of the senior population, were food insecure in 2017. Findings reveal that in 2017, an estimated 4.8 million older adults age 50-59 are food insecure. Even in one of the world’s greatest food-producing nations, millions of children and adults face poverty and the despair, fatigue and trauma of everyday hunger in every county across the United States – with senior citizens suffering food deprivation at a time in their lives when they are most vulnerable. In examining the extent of the threat of hunger nationally among seniors in 2017, the report also provides the rates of senior hunger in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, for the first time, the report provides the rates of senior food insecurity in 51 metropolitan areas. While food insecurity has negative effects for individuals across the age spectrum, for seniors, these effects can be particularly problematic given the unique health, economic, and nutritional challenges that can come with aging.
What is holiday hunger?
Holiday hunger is a reflection of the everyday disaster of food insecurity, faced by millions of people throughout the world, hundreds of thousands of people throughout the Delaware Valley – and thousands of people living in your very own South Jersey county right now. Holiday hunger is very real. It is very real … and it is right next door. Food insecurity does not celebrate the holiday season. Right now in South Jersey, thousands of children, families and seniors do not have enough to eat. For our neighbors facing the everyday reality of hunger, the holidays carry an extra burden – particularly for parents longing to give their children the gift of food. You can make a difference!