This article originally appeared as an Op-Ed by the Divisional Commander of the Midland Division, Major Lonneal Richardson, in the St. Louis American on September 25.
Children worry about a whole host of things, like homework, relationships with friends, and whether or not they’re wearing the newest fashions and trends. These are things we all worry about in our younger years. But children today are coping with an issue not even adults should be accustomed to.
According to the St. Louis Area Foodbank, the St. Louis region is home to 172,660 children who are struggling with hunger. Statewide, nearly a quarter of Missouri’s children are hungry or at risk of hunger. These figures place Missouri fifth in the country and among the states with the highest increase of hungry children.
We discovered a few summers ago, a child attending The Salvation Army’s Camp Mihaska in Bourbon, Mo., was surprised to learn he would be given three meals a day because at home his family could only afford to provide him with one meal. It’s a sobering realization that so many local children are struggling with such a basic human need.
St. Louisans are flocking to local food pantries and social-service agencies in record numbers. Within the past two years, The Salvation Army’s O’Fallon Worship and Community Center went from serving 45 people each month to almost 500 at its food pantry. These numbers show no sign of decreasing, especially after House lawmakers recently approved the federal Farm Bill after stripping the food-stamp program used by 48 million Americans and threatening to make more devastating cuts to the program. In Missouri, 416,000 children rely on food stamps to survive.
Anti-hunger organization Bread for the World has estimated that if the proposed cuts are enacted to the food-stamp program, every religious congregation in the United States would need to spend $50,000 a year for the next 10 years to feed the people who would be affected.
Hunger has become a serious problem in the St. Louis area, and social-service organizations have worked diligently to combat it as best we can. But, the truth is, we are struggling to keep up with the influx of need. The Salvation Army will continue to feed children, adults and senior citizens every day as long as we are able. We pray that your continued support will allow our local children to just be kids, instead of worrying when they’ll be able to eat again.