It’s official. We’re on the downhill run through the holidays.
Economists predict a pretty good season for retailers, in part because Christmas and the start of a new year fall on a Monday, meaning a long weekend off for many workers, and more hours to finish off your gift list.
Food sellers also do well this time of year. We can almost taste the Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts, tables stacked with turkey, ham and all the fixings, with a finale of pumpkin and/or mince pies.
Unfortunately, such visions may come to many Americans — they just won’t be able to participate. Poverty has a way of doing that, especially to families in which adults suffer for not being able to provide a traditional American holiday meal for the kids.
It does seem wildly incongruous that, in this land of plenty, so many go hungry. That is doubly true for any holiday season, during which the financially disadvantaged adults and children must, of necessity, stay on the outside looking in.
Many people try not to think about the companion problems of poverty and hunger, at least not while they and their families can afford gifts, and more importantly the feasts that accompany the holiday season.
It’s worse than you may think. The nonprofit Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign recently released results of a survey, the bottom line of which is that on any given day, more than 13 million U.S. children face hunger, head-on. That works out to one of every six kids in the nation.
Think about that ratio the next time you drive by a school playground, park or maybe even the mall on a busy Saturday.
The report also implies that nearly two-thirds of low-income families worry on most days about running out of food, and not having enough money to buy more.
Nearly a quarter of low-income families admit to reducing the size of the kids’ meals so there’ll be enough to go around. More than a third of folks in the lower income brackets say they can’t afford nutritionally well-balanced meals for their kids.
In most of these families, one unexpected emergency and a trip to the hospital can mean that adequate food supplies cannot be purchased. An unanticipated medical bill for $1,000 can and often is the straw that breaks the family’s food budget. Experts say an average trip to an outpatient emergency facility costs more than $1,200.
We’re not writing these dismal facts to make you feel bad and spoil the start of the holiday season for you. We’re writing this because it’s something people who can afford to can do something about.
The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County always needs donations, both of food and of the monetary variety. The Foodbank supplies more than 300 charitable organizations countywide, so donating to the supplier keeps many of the others in the business of helping low-income families.
This plea comes at a time when the Trump administration is proposing cuts to federal programs that provide funding to school lunch programs. There is legislation floating around in the House of Representatives that would reduce funding for school meals.
Perhaps our elected and appointed leaders wouldn’t be so keen to reduce help to low-income families — if most of them were not millionaires or billionaires, folks who have never in their wildest dreams faced the kinds of hunger issues that confront tens of millions of Americans day in, day out.
Here is our holiday plea — have a heart, and help where you can.