CHARLESTON — On June 3, communities across the country will come together to focus attention on the persistent problem of hunger in America. For the third year in a row, Catholic Charities will also participate in National Hunger Awareness Day.
In South Carolina, hunger or food insecurity — not having enough food to meet daily nutritional needs, or not knowing where your next meal is coming from — is a major problem. More than 1 in 10 South Carolinians are identified as “food insecure,” and almost 1 in 4 of South Carolina’s children live in poverty.
Catholic Charities has long been a service provider and advocate for hunger issues, with Dominican Sister Pat Keating, Coastal Deanery regional coordinator, being one of the founding members of the South Carolina Anti-hunger Network. SCAN works with an ecumenical group of charitable organizations, advocacy groups and food banks.
Catholic Charities across the Diocese of Charleston has a variety of programs to address hunger in both rural and urban areas. They include such diverse services as the soup kitchen and pantry at Neighborhood House, meals served at Echo House and the Time Out program (all in the Charleston area), rural food pantries, and food vouchers throughout the diocese. Many people think of Catholic Charities as present only in cities where the regional offices are located — North Charleston, Conway, Columbia, and Greenville — but our service area covers the entire diocese. One program operates in quiet rural Saluda County at St. William in Ward, where community resources are extremely limited and the unemployment rate has topped 50 percent. Here, in conjunction with Harvest Hope Food Bank, Catholic Charities operates a bimonthly food pantry serving more than 820 families.
Last year Catholic Charities served 43,785 meals and assisted 7,692 families with food vouchers. Volunteers assisted us with 8,101 hours of service. But this is just a small part of a much larger picture. Many Catholic parishes, outreach centers, and St. Vincent de Paul Society chapters, as well as churches of other denominations, have food pantries and prepare meals for the hungry. Despite all of these efforts, hunger persists. We have to ask ourselves, “Why?”
The startling reality is that a large segment of the people we serve every day are the working poor — hard working people with full-time jobs who still can’t adequately meet their families’ basic needs because of low wages and lack of health benefits.
Here are five things you can do to help speak up for hungry people on Hunger Awareness Day.
Learn about hunger in your community and teach your children about the issues of hunger.
Volunteer/donate to Catholic Char-ities, your parish food pantry or ministry, or your local food bank. Help raise contributions from your parish or encourage your friends to join you in volunteering.
Advocate for hungry people. Write a letter to presidential and congressional candidates and ask them to make solving the hunger problem a high priority.
Pray for hungry people. Ask your parish to include hunger as a special prayer concern during the week of Hunger Awareness Day.
Get involved with Bread for the World as a local advocate. Help your church or organization plan an Offering of Letters, writing letters to congressmen and other decision makers.
Dorothy Grillo is director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Charleston.
For more information
Check Web sites www.hungerday.org,
www.catholiccharitiesusa.org, www.bread.org, www.americassecondharvest.org, or call your local Catholic Charities office.