Tomorrow, May 19, is Food Revolution Day. The basic premise is to stand up for healthy food and to share information, talents and resources and to highlight the world’s food issues. Jamie Oliver, formerly known as the Naked Chef, now on a one-man crusade to bring healthy food to school children, is the mobilizing force behind Food Revolution Day. But as Dr Bill Frist, the former U.S. Senator from Tennessee, notes in this thoughtful article from last February, access to healthy food is often one of the basic necessities not available to children in poverty. More than 23 million people live in "food deserts", which the USDA defines as any census district where at least 20 percent of the inhabitants are below the poverty line and 33 percent live over a mile from the nearest supermarket (or in rural areas, more than 10 miles). As Scientific America notes, there is a troubling correlation between food deserts and areas of increased incidents of diabetes and obesity. In the richest nation in the world, our children should not be without the basic necessities that will allow them to grow strong and healthy--healthy food, hygiene products like soap and diapers, and sound shelter.
Part of the problem may be that many people do not fully understand poverty in the country. A recent poll by the Salvation Army found that most Americans do not know the poverty level, and misunderstand their neighbors in need. Surveying just over 1,000 individuals, the results revealed that while the public is sympathetic to the poverty crisis, it at times misunderstands the reasons why so many live in poverty. Indeed, the report found that the farther removed from poverty a person is, the less common he or she believes poverty is in society. The report also found that a majority of people believe that assistance to families in need can help set up children for success in escaping poverty, many Americans are unsure of what they can do to help others – and whether or not their assistance will actually help.
The truth is, assistance does help. As Mark Shriver observes in this article, early intervention and early education programs can improve children's academic success, lower obesity rates, and improve their indicators for success in life. And private assistance helps as well. As illustrated in this documentary, a gift of something as elemental as diapers can help teenaged parents finish their studies, preparing them for the workforce and a life of economic self-sufficiency. Donations to food banks can help ensure people receive the food they need to feed their families nutritious meals. And donations to diaper banks can help families ensure that their children are clean and dry. In honor of Food Revolution Day, embrace the idea that access to basic necessities like good food and clean diapers can make a difference, and donate generously to your local food bank and diaper bank.