How Many of Your Friends Face Hunger?

My dad, a wise and healthy man, always says to me, “Eat to live, don’t live to eat.”

Unfortunately for my father, a venerable figure who deserves better than his often-rebellious daughter, I don’t follow his advice. I live to eat, and I live to eat well. I dine out almost every day of the week and I am famed for planning my days around my voracious appetite. For me, eating is pleasure. More than sustenance, I seek satisfaction.

I’m lucky. Not to mitigate the hard work that’s led me to where I am today, but I have enjoyed and exploited opportunities denied to many others in our community: supportive parents who paid for a college education, a diploma which opened the doors to my steady job, income that allows me to afford housing and transportation. That’s how I get to drop $30 for gourmet cheese if I feel like it (whiskey ginger cheddar, try it).

But for 52 million Americans and 1 in 6 Nevadans, hunger is a real struggle. A new study by Feeding America shows that 46 million people, including 12 million children and 7 million senior citizens, have visited a food bank or used a meal service program to provide food for themselves and their families.

That number seems daunting, so think of it like this: Picture 12 people you know. Realize that at least 2 of them have faced hunger, and one has visited a food bank. While I’m stuffing as many Portobello fries in my mouth as I can, one of my friends is wondering whether to apply for food stamps.

Contrary to popular misconceptions, you don’t have to be homeless to go hungry. The problem is far more pervasive and less obvious: for the millions of Americans living in “food insecure” households, the struggle with hunger might manifest in being forced to choose between buying groceries and paying the bills. For the parents of the more than half (58 percent) of Clark County students who receive free or discounted meals at school, it could be the moments spent wondering how to feed your child during the summer break or holidays. For many unemployed youth, it’s eating only top ramen until you’ve found a job.

As an avid food lover, these are the numbers and stories that twist my stomach and leave me with an ache not at all related to pangs for tacos. These people – our neighbors, relatives, friends and coworkers – don’t get to choose between eating to live and living to eat. They’re barely managing the former.

My intent here is not to ruin anyone’s appetite, or to encourage self-pity. My hope is that whoever reads this will recognize the immense value food banks like Three Square provide, especially since it’s the only food bank in Southern Nevada and it’s still struggling to meet our community’s hunger needs. That in realizing how lucky you are to eat that delicious In-N-Out double-double at least twice a week, you decide to volunteer your time or make a donation (just $1 can provide three meals).

Because what’s the point of living to eat, if someone around you can’t eat to live? Food tastes so much better when everyone has enough to eat.

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Food Bank Volunteers: Credit to Steve Crawford