Never to young to help meet a need

Hunger knows no boundaries. A group of neighborhood friends in Broken Bow realized that too, and decided to come together and do something about it. The kids hang out and play together nearly every day, but on one Saturday afternoon they had even more fun, they say, working to help someone else. Results of a new study supported by the ConAgra Foods Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Found-ation and Nielsen shows approximately 20 percent of children in Nebraska under the age of 18 are at-risk for hunger. Of the 444,893 children in the 93 counties served by Food Bank for the Heartland, there are 92,270 children struggling with hunger according to study results. Douglas County has the most children at-risk for hunger (26,970) followed by Sarpy County (7,600) in Nebraska. Thurston County has the highest rate of child food insecurity at 35.9 percent while Logan County has the lowest at 14.3 percent. “These results are simply alarming,” said Susan Ogborn, Food Bank President and CEO. “What makes it so disturbing is that some of the most vulnerable to the issue of hunger in our communities are children. We have to do better than this.” “Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2011” is a groundbreaking study from Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization, which provides data on a county level. The research is an important tool because it provides critical information for developing strategies to alleviate child hunger. By providing additional details about the face of child food insecurity at the county level, “Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2011” will enable food banks, the community based agencies they serve and policy makers to redefine approaches in addressing needs of hungry children and their families and develop more effective policy solutions. Custer County is certainly not immune to families in need, and hungry children. The local food bank has struggled throughout the summer with a low inventory and near-empty freezers. A recent food drive by a few of the community’s churches have greatly helped stock the shelves at the food pantry. But as many of us know, the need is on-going. It was that food drive that fostered the idea of making the car wash a benefit for the food pantry. Jessy and Jory Lowe, Callie White, Buddy and Dani Osmond and Lindsey and Jace Shauda have been young entreprenuers for a while, hosting a lemonade stand and having bake sales throughout the summer to earn a little spending money. Jessie and Callie came up with the idea to have a car wash in the neighborhood. Meanwhile, the Osmond kids had gone with their mom, Krista, to drop off some items at the food pantry. Even they weren’t too young to see there was a need here. That’s when Dani got the idea, and approached her friends about donating the money from their car wash to the food pantry. “We knew we could raise more money with this than the lemonade stand,” Dani explains. “And that’s quite a lot of money!” The six kids raised $42 washing neighborhood cars for about two and a half hours. “And it was fun!”, adds Buddy. Lindsey says when Dani suggested donating the money to the food pantry, she was anxious to help. Like Buddy, Lindsey says the car wash was “lots of fun.” Her little brother Jace shared his duties at the car wash, “I scrubbed the soap on the cars,” he says excitedly. The kids set up the car wash in the street in front of one of the homes, and washed nine or 10 cars during that time. They also kept their tradition of selling cookies and lemonade. “One person didn’t want their car washed, but just gave us money anyway,” said Buddy. These kids will tell you the fight to end hunger begins right here at home. The study reveals there are 2,647 persons under the age of 18 living in Custer County. Of those, 490. or 18.7 percent, are termed “food insecure”, with 75 percent of those children at or below 185 percent of the poverty line. Two counties in the area show 100 percent of their food insecure children at or below 185 percent of the poverty line - Blaine and Hooker. In Blaine County, 22.5 percent of the population under age 18 is food insecure, while Hooker County comes in at 20.1 percent. Logan County shows one of the lowest percentages across the area, wtih only 14.3 percent of its 147 residents under the age of 18 listed as food insecure. But of those, 71 percent are at or above that poverty line. Meanwhile, Thomas County shows the lowest percentage at or below 185 pervent of the poverty line, with 40 percent of its food insecure children. On the opposite end of that spectrum, Loup County has the highest percentage with 87 percent of its food insecure children population at or below that poverty line. Of the 131 residents of Loup County under the age of 18, 23.6 percent are food insecure. Thomas County has a rate of 21.8 percent of minors food insecure, while Valley has 22.3 percent. The USDA reports that 50 million Americans are uncertain of where they will find their next meal. September is Hunger Action Month. It is time for everyone - whether young or old - to get involved in the fight to end hunger in America.