By most measures, Hancock County is a prosperous, thriving place. We have new schools and creative educators, bountiful farms, diverse industry, including a world-class corporation in the midst of an $80 million expansion, consistently low unemployment rates, and a rising interest in the arts.
But we’re failing in one important measure of success: Thousands of our residents are hungry.
That’s unacceptable, and the reason why the county’s Halt Hunger Initiative should remain a high priority.
The community must work to address food issues, and make children the greatest focus. A lack of proper nutrition can affect mental and physical health, and reduce a youth’s ability to learn, grow and fight illness.
The issue has not been ignored here, by any measure. In 2011, the Halt Hunger Initiative was launched through the United Way of Hancock County, and already almost $356,000 has been invested in the cause.
Charitable groups, faith-based organizations and schools can apply for grants to operate food programs. The application process is now underway.
The initiative’s guidelines are broad to encourage innovation, but grants must address some aspect of food insecurity, which is defined as having a limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods.
Generally, a program must support food programs and providers, assure access to food assistance programs for those in need, develop or implement long-term plans to acquire, store and distribute food, or provide education on how to be food “secure.”
Recent efforts have included feed-a-child programs, community gardens, food pantries, and the purchase of a refrigerated truck to transport food.
While those programs have been successful, the need is still here.
According to feedingamerica.org, about 13.5 percent of the county’s population, or about 10,170 people, are considered “food insecure.” The county percentage is below Ohio’s average rate of 17.2 percent, but the fact that one in six residents here fight hunger is still troubling.
There remains a misconception that hunger only affects the homeless, the impoverished, and the uneducated. It can, but just as often it’s someone who lives next door. And, too much, it’s the very young or the elderly.
We urge those who can make a difference to step up and find creative ways to address hunger. Hancock County is doing well on many levels. But there are still far too many among us who need a little help. Imagine how much better we’d be as a community if we could remove hunger from our plate of problems.
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