National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is Nov. 10 to 18. In advance of Thanksgiving, the week calls for an examination of unmet basic needs of individuals and families. More than 50 million Americans live in food-insecure households, and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has reported more than 770,000 who are homeless.
We don’t have to look far to find evidence of hunger. Defined as lacking access to food, worrying constantly about purchasing food, being unable to afford balanced meals or experiencing constant hunger, food insecurity is hugely prevalent and continues to increase. University of California, Los Angeles reports that in California, food insecurity has affected 3.7 million people. Narrowing in on San Bernardino County, it has been reported for 241,000 people, more than 43 percent of the population. Food insecurity affects individuals and communities in all aspects of life. It means poorer health and higher risks of chronic disease and mental health struggles, including a higher prevalence of depression. It also leads to decreased academic performance for students.
The week challenges us both as individuals and as a community to examine how we address issues of hunger. The realities of food insecurity illustrate broader intersections between unemployment, politics and socioeconomic status, to name a few. The largest increases in food insecurity have been evidenced in Spanish-speaking households, households with children and foreign-born and non-citizen individuals. Theories that we discuss in classrooms, like structural violence, are not isolated to academia, but can be applied to understand the complex factors that play into hunger and homelessness.
Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week highlights the lack of basic necessities that many in our nearby community face. To facilitate awareness of the needs of our community and build support for local organizations addressing them, the Draper Center and Challah for Hunger have organized events this week to volunteer with the Pomona Valley Christian Center; to listen to speakers from Second Harvest of San Bernardino, Inland Valley Hope Partners and the LA Regional Food Bank; and to participate in a Hunger Banquet. Student planning and participation in the events this week are important steps in engaging with these issues. However, such consciousness and action can and should extend beyond a week of programming to consider both the daily realities of hunger and the structures that reinforce it.
Please take the time to consider your own role in how hunger and homelessness affect our community. Whether through participating in the programs and events this weekend, or exploring other ways of engaging with food insecurity, it is critical to consider the most basic human needs and to take action so that they can be met for all.