As a member of the Kentucky Hunger Initiative, I recently attended the inaugural Rural Child Hunger Summit hosted by Share Our Strength’s “No Kid Hungry Campaign” in my own “back yard” in Louisville, Kentucky. Rural hunger is not a new issue to those working in schools and community organizations across the country but the sense of urgency is clear. The reality is 85 percent of counties with high child food insecurity are considered rural.
Today, rural is not about farming as less than six percent are connected to agriculture. It’s about areas not economically linked to a city or urban area that are dealing with persistent poverty – a combination of limited infrastructure and work opportunities and now, rising substance abuse. Hunger is the silent partner.
This conference brought together champions from across the country who are making a difference in the fight against rural child hunger, including one of my colleagues and immediate past president of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, Donna Martin, EdS. RDN, LD. Donna is a nationally recognized leader in school nutrition programs and the director of the Burke County, Georgia, School Nutrition Program. She has revolutionized the “farm to school” program through collaborations that have improved farm economy, reduced food waste and most importantly, addressed the food insecurity and child hunger issues in her area. A model program for all!
As we address hunger issues across our communities, we need be reminded that hunger alone is not the problem, rather it’s a symptom of bigger society issues. It takes all of us to care to make a difference.