Column: Food insecurity continues to grow; help us meet the need

After seven years at the helm of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, Jan Lewis has been succeeded by Ken Williams, who formerly held executive positions at Black & Veatch and World Vision International. He plans to build on Lewis’ efforts to reconnect Catholic Charities with the average Catholic in the pew. Photo by Joe Bollig.
After seven years at the helm of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, Jan Lewis has been succeeded by Ken Williams, who formerly held executive positions at Black & Veatch and World Vision International. He plans to build on Lewis’ efforts to reconnect Catholic Charities with the average Catholic in the pew. Photo by Joe Bollig.

by Ken Williams

Did you know that World Food Day this year was Oct. 16? To be honest, I had no idea either. It turns out, World Food Day was established in 1979 to raise awareness and take action against world hunger.

The United Nations estimates there are about 805 million people in the world that live with chronic hunger, and about 26 percent of the children in the world suffer from malnutrition. Those are staggering statistics, but the majority of those living in hunger live in impoverished nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, right?

True, more than 70 percent of those suffering with food insecurities live in those areas.

So, why should we care? First, no one should go hungry in this world. Everyone has a right to adequate food. Jesus said, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none. And whoever has food is to do likewise” (Lk 3:11). Second, food insecurity is a major problem in Kansas. In 2013, nearly 23 percent of Kansas children lived in “food insecure households.”

There are many theories on why hunger exists in a world that annually produc- es more than enough food to feed everyone. There doesn’t appear to be a single root cause of the problem. The good news is that no matter which theory you subscribe to, our response as Catholics should be the same: “Whoever oppresses the poor insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him” (Prv 14:31).

Thanks to parish and Hy-Vee food drives, St. Thomas Aquinas High School’s annual food drive, and the generous support of many other community partners, more than 112,000 people were served by a Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas food pantry during the last 12 months. Our food pantries are making important changes to better serve those in need.

Higher nutritional food has been added to the shelves, and cooking classes are being offered. Some of our food pantries (soon to be all) have implemented a “client choice” model that allows people to shop for themselves instead of being handed a sack of food, acknowledging the God-given dignity of every person.

Unfortunately, the need continues to grow. Their stories are all different, but their need is the same. I recently had the experience of taking someone through our food pantry for their very first time. This person had several college degrees and once held a number of highly compensated jobs. Then the economy turned and unemployment soared. It can happen to anyone, and it does.

Until world hunger is solved, Catholic Charities will continue to feed the hungry. Please continue to help by supporting your parish, school or community food drive for Catholic Charities.

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