Lower Florida’s high hunger cost
Published: Saturday, October 15, 2011
Updated: Monday, October 17, 2011 21:10
Take a stroll through downtown Orlando on any given day and you will bear witness to an issue confronting all of us: hunger.
Though we have labored through charities and government programs to fight the problem, the cost continues to rise. One study quantified this cost into an actual bill and found that our state experienced the biggest increase in this cost.
The Orlando Sentinel recently reported that America's "hunger bill" cost this country $167.5 billion last year, according to new research. This bill is the cost of hunger-related illnesses, lost economic productivity, charities that feed the poor and the consequences of hungry children falling behind in the classroom, according to the Sentinel.
This is not an abstract cost that can simply be ignored. It is very real, and it comes at a cost to every citizen. Donald Shepard, a professor at the Schneider Institutes for Health Policy at Brandeis University, argues this very point, according to the Sentinel. He is one of the principal authors of the study.
"Everybody pays these costs," Shepard said. "If you divide by the population, it works out to $542 for every man, woman and child in this country."
Between 2007 and 2010, every state in the nation saw an increase in the cost of hunger. Florida experienced the biggest three-year rise with an increase of 62 percent to $11.7 billion, according to the study from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for American Progress and Brandeis University.
College students have been hit very hard by this issue, as well. Last year, NPR reported that many college students suffer from hunger and homelessness and often hide that fact.
One story highlighted by NPR is that of Diego Sepulveda, a 22-year-old political science major who transferred to UCLA from a community college. He is the first in his family to attend college, according to NPR.
He found himself working full time at Subway to help pay for his education, and he eventually lost that job. As a result, he spent some nights sleeping at the library or on friends' couches.
Antonio Sandoval, head of UCLA's Community Programs Office, said he didn't have specific numbers on the amount of students suffering from hunger or homelessness because many students keep that information hidden.
"It's very affluent here, it's Westwood, Bel Air, Beverly Hills," Sandoval said. "Students who come to UCLA want to fit the norm here, so they're not going to tell you they're homeless, or they're not going to tell you they're hungry."
One popular way to combat the issue of hunger at the college level is campus pantries. Inside Higher Ed noted earlier this year that students find these pantries to be a useful way to help out other students in need. Our very own Knights helping Knights Pantry is an excellent example of how effective this method of helping students can be.
According to the website, this program began as a class project in the spring 2009 semester. It began as a small storage room in the Student Union where students came to get donated food and shared their stories. Many of the students they served counted on Knights Pantry to provide for their one meal of the day, according to their website.
As of August 2010, Knights Pantry relocated itself to Ferrell Commons in order to be able to serve more students. The Pantry is able to store up to 4,000 pounds of food on any given day, according to their website. The Pantry offers food, as well as clothing and toiletries, and it is accessible to any enrolled student with a UCF ID.
Hunger is a serious problem nationwide that is continually increasing in these tough times. Our state, in particular, has been hit the hardest. We all need to work together to combat this hunger bill and lower the cost to ourselves. We also need to work to make it easier for charitable organizations to provide food to those in need. It is an issue that must be tackled by all of us.