‘Meal gap’ something to chew on (Editorial)

(May 5, 2015) It’s known as the “meal gap,” and it’s widening.
It means that more and more people don’t have enough food.
They can’t be sure where their next meal is coming from.
It means that despite the enormous capacity of this country to produce food, more and more people are going hungry.
And that’s of major concern to the Maryland Food Bank that serves 21 counties and the city of Baltimore.
Joanna Warner is director of communication for the Maryland Food Bank.
“What we’re finding,” she said, “is that more and more people who are going to our partner agencies — soup kitchens, food pantries, etc — in need of help to put food on the table are working, but are not making much. Between stagnant wages and Maryland’s high cost of living, as well as the fact that jobs lost during the recession are being replaced with jobs that pay less, more and more Marylanders are finding it difficult to make ends meet.”
Here are some figures.
A new study finds that 503,650 people in the Maryland Food Bank’s service area — including 179,230 children — are food insecure, or lack access to enough food to support a healthy life.
Feeding America’s 2015 Map the Meal Gap Report is based on an analysis of statistics collected by the USDA, U.S. Census Bureau, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013, which is the most recent year for which data is available.
According to the study:
• For the first time, more than half a million individuals, or one in eight Marylanders in our service area, are food insecure, or unable to access enough food for an active, healthy life;
• More than a third of food-insecure individuals are children, with one in five kids reporting food insecurity; and
• Hungry Marylanders collectively missed 89,145,400 meals, adding another 4.4 million meals to the meal gap the Food Bank is actively working to fill.
A discerning look at our state’s economy may provide insight into why more families are struggling to put food on the table.
In 2013, the year from which these hunger statistics were drawn, government figures indicated that Maryland’s economy showed no growth, while the cost of a meal increased by nearly 10 cents, according to Feeding America estimates.
Of course, the Food Bank’s Farm to Food Bank program directed and coordinated by Amy Cawley, is critical to supplying the bank with food.
If you’re farming and want to link up, Cawley wants you to know that “we make the process as simple as possible. ... I know how busy farmers are and the last thing I want to do is be an added burden or stressor.”
The food collection process works in one or a combination of three ways, Cawley said.
“One, the farmer has excess harvested produce that they donate to us. The 50-60 or so farmers who have donated to us from the Eastern Shore, they mainly call or text me when they have excess harvested produce on hand and then a MFB truck goes and picks up the product from the farm. We strive to get to the farm within 24 hours of the initial contact from the farmer. The farmer can receive a call ahead of time if he or she wishes, from the driver.
“Two, the farmer allows me to supervise pre-release inmates and/or volunteers to glean a section of the field — in the past it’s been sweet corn, green peppers, and watermelons
“Finally, we sometimes have contract money to offer for produce.”
Cawley added, that the Farm to Food Bank program also provides supplies upon request, such as bins, pallets, boxes, and labor to help keep the cost down. The Food Bank also can give the farmer a donation receipt if he or she wishes.
For those farmers who may have “leftovers” in the farm operation or simply want to sign on with Amy Cawley and her Farm to Food Bank program, we encourage and applaud that decision. 179,230 hungry kids in Maryland?
Somehow, we just can’t let that happen.