Saying a blessing before meals is common practice for me. Unfortunately, the prayer of many Arkansans is for food to be put on the table.
Hunger is an issue that hits too close to home. Arkansas food insecurity rates are above the national average from 2010-2012 according to a new report by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The report shows one in five Arkansans struggle with hunger. An estimated eight percent of Arkansas households had very low food security, meaning there was not enough food for all members of the household. Nationally, 14.5 percent of American households were food insecure at some point during 2012.
As a co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus, a bipartisan coalition of Members of Congress committed to fighting hunger and food insecurity, I am working with my colleagues as well as public and private organizations to identify ways we can be helpful and raise awareness to reverse these trends.
With September designated as National Hunger Action Month, it is a good time to spotlight the issue, but also the wide variety of organizations in Arkansas, and nationwide, who make it their mission to fight hunger.
We have made great progress in helping encourage families to make nutritious meal planning an important part of their lives with the ultimate goal of eliminating food insecurity.
Earlier this month I participated in a unique approach to educating families on how they can eat healthy while on a budget. The Cooking Matters at the Store tours provide individuals with the tools they need to fight hunger. By learning practices like comparing unit prices, reading food labels and buying fruits and vegetables on a budget, we can arm families with the knowledge they need to begin a lifetime of healthy eating habits. These tours are held at numerous grocery stores in Arkansas and throughout the country and help tackle food insecurity one family at a time. I was honored to be invited to join this effort hosted by the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance.
Hunger is a solvable problem, but it requires community involvement. I'm proud to see the participation throughout our state that is working to address hunger and malnourishment. Volunteers across the state help donate to the food banks and raise funds to feed families. Arkansas based businesses like Wal-Mart and Tyson Foods have made substantial investments in helping on this front. In September, Arvest Bank launched its "1 Million Meals" initiative to help fight hunger. The donations made during the two-month food drive will benefit local food banks and other meal assistance organizations throughout the state to help families put meals on the table.
Hunger has no bounds and its reach is wide, but we can make a difference by working together. The good news is that efforts are underway to resolve this problem and turn the tide against food insecurity.