I have never gone to bed hungry. My children have never gone to bed hungry. But countless children in the United States do go to bed hungry, every night. What are we going to do about it?
September is Hunger Action Month.
Here are the facts:
* 50% of the households that benefit from food shelves have at least one child under the age of 18.
* An estimated 1 in 10 children in Minnesota lives in poverty and 1 in 3 qualifies for free and reduced lunches, based on low income guidelines.
* Children who suffer from poor nutrition during the brain’s most formative years score much lower on tests of vocabulary, reading comprehension, arithmetic and general knowledge.
* The fastest growing group of food shelf clients is the working poor: 47% of households using food shelves in our local service area report paid employment as their major source of income.
* There were more than 1.8 million visits to Minnesota food shelves in 2006, up from 1.7 million in 2005.
In 1984, an organization called Share Our Strength (SOS) was started by Bill and Debbie Shore with the belief that “everyone has a strength to share in the global fight against hunger and poverty, and that in these shared strengths lie sustainable solutions.” Working with Share Our Strength, creative writing programs at universities across the country began to give readings to benefit the fight against hunger. One night a year, hundreds of writers shared their words and raised money for Share Our Strength.
Twenty-five years later, there are only a handful of writing programs still hosting readings to end hunger. Some still raise money for SOS, some raise money for local food shelves. But for the most part, these readings have disappeared.
Award-winning novelist Charles Baxter is determined to see this tradition continue. On Wednesday, September 22nd Baxter will host the 3rd Annual Benefit for Hunger featuring readings by University of Minnesota Creative Writing Faculty, including Charles Baxter, Regents Professors and memoirists Patricia Hampl and Madelon Sprengnether, poet Maria Damon, novelist M. J. Fitzgerald, and poet Ray Gonzalez. Proceeds will go to Second Harvest Heartland.
When: Wednesday, September 22, 7:30 – 9:30 pm
Cost: Free with a suggested donation of $5.00.
(You can read my interview with Charles Baxter about the event here.)
If you’re here in the Twin Cities, please come down and listen to these wonderful authors read their writing. If you’re not local, please consider donating to or volunteering for your local food shelf or to donating to Share Our Strength. Ending hunger in the United States is possible if we all give a little. What can you do?