On Not Taking Food for Granted

With 10% of New Hampshire’s population in need, please consider contributing to a local food pantry or to the food donation table at our Winter Farmers’ Market — help bring fresh food to someone’s table. From Lorraine Merrill’s column, Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food, for the Weekly Market Bulletin:

Not Taking Food for Granted

One reason Thanksgiving is such an important holiday for most farm families is that farmers and gardeners tend not to take the abundance of food on their holiday tables for granted. Those who grow or produce food for their own families, or for many families, know all too well the risks and impacts of drought, voracious insects, or the loss of an animal—whether cow, pig, sheep,  goat or turkey.

This year we are hearing that the need of struggling families for food assistance is greater than at any time in recent memory. This week the NH Food Bank reported an estimated 135,000 individuals of all ages are in need, and overwhelming the state’s network of emergency food providers. That’s about 10% of the state’s population. Thirty-five percent of members of households served are children under 18. TV news cameras have shown nearly bare shelves at the Food Bank’s Manchester warehouse.

New Hampshire has had one of the lowest poverty rates in the country. In 2009, it was the lowest at 7.9 percent. However, an alternative poverty assessment released by the U.S. Census this month pegs the 2009 poverty rate at 10.4 percent, higher than seven other states, including Maine and Vermont. The Supplemental Poverty Measure factors in the value of public assistance and living costs. New Hampshire’s high housing and utilities costs make most of the difference.

More than 26,200 people receive food assistance from emergency providers in the state in any given week. The need is no greater during the holidays than any other month of the year, Cleo Castonguay told visitors to the grand opening of the new community assistance center and food pantry run by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Exeter. “People need to eat every day,” he said. Read more…

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