TRENTON – The City of Trenton and the New Jersey Legislature issued proclamations at the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) earlier today, acknowledging the local fight against hunger and food insecurity while marking a first-time dual tribute to national Hunger Action Month – an awareness campaign spotlighting the issue throughout the U.S.
In an effort to bring attention to the issue here at home, TASK hosted officials during a brief ceremony during the soup kitchen’s lunchtime meal service. Trenton Department of Health and Human Services Director Shakira Abdul-Ali presented a proclamation to TASK Executive Director Joyce E. Campbell, declaring September Hunger Action Month in the city.
“There is something sacred about serving a meal to someone,” Abdul-Ali said standing in TASK’s dining room as volunteers delivered food trays to patrons. “You communicate better over food; all can go well over a meal, and yet many people don’t have that because they don’t even know where their next meal will come from…the city and this administration would like to see that change.”
Wearing orange – the international color for hunger awareness – Campbell read the state-issued proclamation in the absence of its sponsors NJ State Senator Shirley Turner and Assembly Members Anthony Verrelli and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson. The proclamation declared September 12, 2019, Hunger Action Day in the Garden State. As she echoed Abdul-Ali’s sentiment, Campbell emphasized the importance of increased awareness.
“We really want to make people aware that the need is still great with 40,000 food insecure in Mercer County alone,” Campbell said, adding that TASK has increased its meal service to meet the growing demand in Princeton, Hightstown and other suburban towns surrounding the city. “The USDA recently issued a report that showed the rate of food insecurity nationwide has not changed much since 2010 when the rate was 11.1 percent. The country needs to commit to ending hunger and poverty. We all need to do better.”
People can do more in a number of ways. For instance, TASK has laid down a friendly challenge to anyone looking to make a difference. Folks can start with the TASK “30 Ways in 30 Days Hunger Action Month Challenge.” This 30-day calendar lays out steps that anyone can take to alleviate hunger right in their backyard. It includes everything from simply posting the calendar on the refrigerator at home or at work to setting up a fundraiser for TASK on Face Book.
Crafted by Feeding America, the largest U.S. hunger-relief, advocacy and education organization, Hunger Action Month is dedicated to encouraging citizens to effectively implement ways to alleviate and eventually end hunger and food insecurity in their hometowns. While TASK works year-round to make everyone aware of this ever-increasing problem, we’ve taken additional steps in September – Hunger Action Month – to spread the word and encourage people to affect change in their own communities.
Part of raising awareness about hunger and food insecurity is education. Here are some facts about the matter:
- Did you know that hunger and food insecurity are not the same thing?
Often, many people use the terms hunger and food insecurity interchangeably however, according the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) there is a clear and separate distinction. For example, nearly 40,000 people in Mercer County live with hunger and/or food insecurity. That means while some county residents chronically experience the pangs of hunger – “an individual-level physiological condition that may result from food insecurity;” they could simultaneously meet the federal definition of being food insecure – “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.” (USDA).
- City residents are among the 23. 5 million Americans living in what the USDA calls a food desert – an urban, low-income area where most residents live more than a mile from the fresh produce and the healthier foods major supermarkets supply.
- Trenton is a food swamp – a place where fast food, junk food outlets, convenience stores, and liquor stores outnumber healthy food options, according to the USDA.
- 4 percent of Trenton’s food assets (various food markets) offer healthy food. Assets rise to 8 and 10 percent in New Jersey and the U.S., respectively according to a joint New York University and Rutgers University study.
- Nationally, there is one supermarket for every 15,250 people, in Mercer County, there is one supermarket for every 11,450 residents and in Trenton, one supermarket serves nearly 84,000 people. In order to meet that need, the city would need five additional supermarkets within its borders, according to a joint New York University and Rutgers University study.
- The obesity rate in Trenton is 39 percent, and 16 percent suffer from diabetes with the city’s children suffering some of the highest rates in the nation. Nearly 1 in 2 Trenton schoolchildren in every age category is overweight or obese. Forty-nine percent of the city’s preschoolers and kindergarteners (3-5-year-olds) are overweight or obese; nationally that number is 21 percent, according to a recent joint New York University and Rutgers University study.