Suzanne Collins’ story is about a post-apocalyptic world in which young people are chosen for an annual competition in which they must fight to the death in order to win food and other prizes for their poverty-stricken home areas.
But for too many people in America, hunger is no game.
Last week’s Trib reported that nearly one in five children in Marshall County exists in hunger. That’s 20 percent of the county’s children.
The website Feeding America (feedingamerica.org) asserts that, in 2012, 49 million Americans lived in food insecure households. The number included 33.1 million adults and 15.9 million children.
Among the households that were challenged in feeding their members, those that included children were at the top of the list statistically.
Those statistics are an approximate turnaround of the grim setting of “The Hunger Games,” in which it is implied that a majority of the population are starving while those in The Capital, the ruling district, enjoy all the economic prosperity and what Feeding America would classify as “food secure households.”
The radical flaunting of that security and the economic domination that provides it is also a gross exaggeration of our real-life culture.
However, the notion that the haves will exploit the have-nots is anything but far-fetched. History and contemporary experience proves that.
That’s not to suggest that everybody who is middle-class or above in economic status is an unfeeling heel. Individually and institutionally, we are a generous and charitable nation.
Our federal government has programs that offer assistance in the form of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamp); National School Lunch Program; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); Commodity Supplement Food Program; and other structured activities.
In addition to administering those federal programs in Kentucky, the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services offers some of its own programs for temporary and ongoing assistance in a number of areas, including nutrition.
Locally, we have our own efforts to feed the hungry, including private activities such as the well-known Marcella’s Kitchen, the Empty Bowls Project and others.
So how, with all these efforts to help, do we have so many hungry children?
If we use a Kaiser Family Foundation study and its data from 2008-2009, we may demonstrate some progress. The Kaiser study reported 22 percent of Kentucky’s population and 30 percent of the state’s children to be in distress. That makes Feeding America’s 20 percent figure look like a huge improvement.
Even if that comparison is a legitimate one and not an apples-to-oranges measure, it still leaves us with a shameful figure.
There will always be some who, for various reasons, fall through the cracks. There are some who are too proud to seek or even accept aid, even on behalf of their children.
We should redouble our efforts to feed those who are hungry. There are no more basic needs than food, water and shelter, and no more compelling obligation for a society than to help provide them.
We may never reach 100 percent, but we can do a lot better than 80.