GIVING TUESDAY Built off the designations of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world Dec. 3 and every day. It was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Over the past seven years, this idea has grown into a global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate and celebrate generosity. People are encouraged to donate money or time to local nonprofits to support their missions, including food banks, homeless shelters and other social service organizations. For a list of area groups participating in Giving Tuesday, visit givingtuesday.org, or you can choose to donate to any charitable cause of your choice.
Brazoria County residents can consider themselves fortunate to not be among the regions with high levels of food insecurity. Feeding America shows 14 percent of county residents were considered having food challenges in 2017, a number that declined slightly over the previous two years.
While 14 percent seems like a small number, consider it means 1 in 7 county residents need assistance to ensure they will be able to meet their day-to-day food needs. And that refers to the whole household; the rate for Brazoria County children is higher, with 20.3 percent considered food insecure.
To illustrate that ratio, if someone is watching a youth basketball game, it means two of the 10 kids on the court aren’t assured of having something to eat when they get home.
In that context, the “small” number proves to be pretty significant.
Food insecurity refers to USDA’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods, Feeding American says. Food-insecure households are not necessarily food insecure all the time. Food insecurity might reflect a household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods.
An ammonia break in a refrigeration area this month forced the Houston Food Bank to toss 1.8 million pounds of food and threw one of southern Brazoria County’s major safety nets for lower-income families into crisis. The region’s community food pantries count on the Houston Food Bank to provide many of its fresh items for distribution, and that resource suddenly wasn’t available.
In an instant, families that depend on local pantries to ensure their children had enough to eat — especially healthy portions of fresh produce — found empty shelves. That is how thin the line between eating and starving is for a family challenged by food insecurity.
“Their one phrase to us is, ‘If it wasn’t for us, they wouldn’t be able to eat for the week,’” Brazoria County Dream Center Executive Director Terry Willis said. “If it wasn’t for the Dream Center, they wouldn’t be able to eat.”
And if it wasn’t for the Houston Food Bank, the Dream Center could not afford to feed all 800 of the unique visitors it sees every month.
Nicole Larson of Brazosport Cares in Freeport, which serves about 1,100 a month through its programs, told a similar story. About 80 percent of its food items at Brazosport Cares come from Houston Food Bank, she said.
Major donations from BASF, MEGlobal, Dow Chemical and Phillips 66 helped blunt the local impact of the Houston Food Bank’s losses, and we as a region are blessed to have such strong community partners who can help in such times of great need.
We must recognize, however, not everyone is as blessed as we are. Many of our neighbors and co-workers rely on helping hands to keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables. For them, one incident can leave them hungry or having to decide between a meal and paying the heating bill.
Supporting nonprofits such as the Salvation Army, Brazoria County Dream Center, Brazosport Cares and other social service-focused organizations is a core value for America, and we must continue to step up to support our brothers and sisters.