Helping hungry children

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Going to bed without supper isn't a punishment for some children. It's a fact of life -- even in Southeast Missouri.

A report from the USDA Food Assistance and Nutrition Research report says that 34.9 million people -- including 13 million children -- live in households that experience hunger or risk of hunger.

Several local churches are taking part in a CROP Walk Sunday afternoon to help raise awareness of hunger issues and money for local food pantries. One-fourth of the walk's proceeds will remain here.

CROP Walk is an ecumenical outreach effort of Church World Service. It's been at least eight years since Cape Girardeau churches held a CROP Walk.

The Rev. Scott Moon was glad to see that people were again interested in holding such an event. "You'd be surprised to know how easy it is to avoid seeing it," he said, speaking on the problem of hunger.

The church office got a call a few weeks ago from a family hoping to get leftover food after a church function, Moon said. It was an unusual request, "but I delivered food to the worst housing I've seen. There was a definite need."

Local social service agencies know that there's been a drain on resources in recent years as needy families move off welfare rolls. The number of "working poor" families who need help has grown.

"People who work with FISH and social services will say it's not even just a matter of the most deparately poor but of the working poor," Moon said.

And statistics show that nearly 60 percent of people eligible for food stamps won't seek aid.

Just walking to raise money for hunger awareness won't eliminate the problem. People must discover the underlying causes of hunger and eliminate those things that perpetuate hunger, Moon said.

"Sixteen thousand children in the world die each day from hunger and hunger-related causes. That should motivate people to action," Moon said. "That's just an obscene figure."

Local churches are trying to motivate members to walk. During a CROP Walk, volunteers agree to accept pledges and walk during the event. Individuals and families are eligible to walk.

Having people out in public for the walk helps draw attention to the issue, said the Rev. Rodger Kiepe, pastor of First Christian Church in Cape Girardeau.

"It's a good way to help make a difference. It attracts attention to the problem of hunger."

Dan Usher, pastor of New McKendree United Methodist Church in Jackson, says the problem of hunger and the need for food pantries won't be eliminated completely, partly because people need more in their food stamp allowance just to get by.

The Jackson Ministerial Alliance's food pantry spends about $500 a month for groceries, in addition to its donated supplies, Usher said. "We're not the grocery store but we try to fill special needs."

Over the past three years, the number of people who come to the pantry for help has diminished, but the pantry still sees about 70 families per month.

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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