Every day last week the Daily Item highlighted an issue that many people are unaware is so prevalent in our communities: hunger. We read stories of retired or elderly residents, neighbors who are disabled, North Shore Community College students, and families living in the higher-income communities at Lynn’s borders – Swampscott, Marblehead, Saugus and Peabody.
Each story outlined unfortunate circumstances for the people involved, whether they were divorce, illness, or the death of a spouse. In some cases, it was simply the rhythm of life that got the better of a family. Unexpected expenses combined with the exceptionally high cost of living in our region.
But despite the different routes, the people highlighted each day ended up at exactly the same destination: in a state of humiliation and hunger because there was not enough money each week to provide sufficient food for themselves or their families.
How can hunger be knocking at the door of friends, neighbors, family members when all indicators are that our local economy is strong? So strong, in fact, that the state announced on Thursday a significant windfall from capital gains taxes. If so many of us are benefitting from gains on investments and a wildly robust stock market, how can it be that our co-workers and children in our schools are going hungry?
I admire the Daily Item for putting faces to a social problem that spans the economic strata of our region. I am humbled by our neighbors who understood that telling their stories publicly is the first step towards changing a pervasive and often misunderstood problem. I commend the Lynn Public Schools and the School Committee for implementing a Community Eligibility Provision, reported just this spring, which provides free breakfast and free lunch to all students, regardless of their economic status. Reducing the stigma associated with applying for free school meals is almost as important as ensuring that no child goes hungry.
In addition to the resources provided by the Daily Item, I would like to add a couple others:
- Project Bread’s Food Source Hotline: 1-800-645-8333. This number is staffed by Food Source Hotline counselors who refer callers to accessible sources for nutritional food in their communities, including summer meal sites for kids and elder meals programs. Food Source Hotline will also screen callers to assess their eligibility for SNAP and will help them to complete the application.
- Project Bread is also hosting a list of “Summer Eats” sites that offer free breakfast and lunch to anyone 18 and under. Go to projectbread.org/findasite.
- Essex County Hunger Relief is another good instant resource. Text FOOD to 877-877, type your city, get a listing.
Now that the subject has been broached, it is up to each of us to be more aware of those around us and the resources that exist to help lessen food insecurity in our communities.
Birgitta S. Damon
Birgitta Damon is the CEO of Lynn Economic Opportunity, Inc.