LEWISTOWN - Food insecurity remains a problem in our nation and in our community. The summer months are a "gap time" in which special programs seek to provide good nutrition to children. Consequently, while we seldom think of hunger issues during the summer months, they are actually worse than when we turn toward charitable thoughts at the holidays.
Improving child nutrition is a key concern of Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, the food outreach ministry of the Jubilee Ministry Center at St. Mark's Episcopal Church. Just when food seems plentiful because fresh fruits and vegetables flood our open-air markets and farm-stands, families that live near poverty level find additional challenges.
Did you know that 16.2 million children in the United States lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis? They live in food-insecure families and as a result, they struggle with hunger at some time during the year. As it turns out, summertime is usually one of the most difficult times.
School vacations and working parents often increase rates of food insecurity, which already are substantially higher than the national average among households with incomes near or below the federal poverty line and among households with children headed by single parents (38 percent of children living in a single-mom household are food-insecure).
It is a myth that these are "big city" problems. The same statistics apply to an area like Lewistown. With fewer jobs that pay substantially more than current minimum wage, families often are classified as the "working poor." That is, families where able adults are employed, but do not make enough money to provide adequately for themselves or their children.
The typical food-secure family spends 27 percent more for food than a typically food-insecure family of the same size and composition. Even though government programs are of some help in meeting these needs, more than 59 percent of families helped by SNAP (food stamps), school lunch programs and WIC still fail to meet adequate nutritional standards.
It becomes more and more clear that hunger does not take a vacation. Mother Hubbard's Cupboard tries its best to meet this need among the families of the greater Lewistown and Mifflin County area by distributing packages of nutritional food and providing guidance as to how to best make food resources stretch. This year, along with the usual food aid package, the cupboard will distribute kids' snack packs filled with nutritious snacks to help bridge the nutrition gap this summer. Packets will contain items like easy mac-n-cheese and ramen noodle soup (both ideal for lunches), peanut butter cracker snacks, a packet of graham crackers, nutritional snack bar, juice box and a few additional items as resources permit.
The usual food packets include items like pork and beans, oatmeal, scalloped potato mix, canned fruits and vegetables, tuna and ravioli. One of the most versatile items included is peanut butter. During the summer, a very small community garden in the parish yard provides some fresh vegetables as well. All of these items are always needed at the cupboard.
If anyone would like to assist by donating unexpired items for the regular packets or the kids' snack packs, they should contact the cupboard at 248-9383 or visit during business hours (9 a.m. to noon, Tuesday through Thursday; and 3-6 p.m. Friday).
Monetary donations are gratefully accepted with the assurance that every penny goes toward the purchase of groceries for the food packets.
For more information on Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, visit the St. Mark's Church website at www.stmark-lewistown.org and click on the link at the left of the home page.
Mother Hubbard's Cupboard is located at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, on the corner of South Main and Water streets in Lewistown. The cupboard's entrance is on the Water Street side.