Our Voice: Hunger affects 1 in 3 of us -- It's time to do something

The United States is embroiled in what to do, if anything, in Syria. Opinions range from "let's mind our own business" to "we must protect the women and children."

Those sentiments apply much closer to home. For those who want to mind our own business and for those who want to protect families, we have an epidemic in this country and in the Mid-Columbia.

It's called hunger.

It is our business, and it affects families.

One-third of our own people are hungry. Not one-third of the world's people. One-third of the people who live in the world's wealthiest nation.

Last year, 49 million people in this country didn't know where their next meal was coming from.

That's unacceptable.

For the fifth straight year, the number of people with "food insecurity" set a record. That means that for five years, each year was a little worse than the year before.

We're moving in the wrong direction.

It's not just a national problem.

Local families struggle, too.

Even though the Mid-Columbia has it better than most places, people here go hungry too.

Our climate allows for gardens. We have a handful of food banks. Several farmers allow groups to glean their fields and donate the fresh produce to area food banks.

Yet, the Mid-Columbia isn't immune from hunger.

Statistics show that more people than ever are using our food banks.

And here's another interesting statistic: Half of all Americans will live in poverty before they are 65. So if it is not your problem, maybe it's just not your problem now.

But it is a problem for someone you know ... and for all those someones who you don't know.

Wondering what you can do about hunger in America and beyond? First of all, like with any good rehabilitation program, we need to admit there is a problem and see ourselves as part of it.

We can't, or won't, take action until we see the need.

Another important step is to be grateful if you know you're having dinner tonight (even if you're the one who has to make it). Be especially grateful if there's enough food in the fridge and cupboard to last through the week.

Once we're in the mindset that we have an abundance, we will find ways to help those who don't.

You can write letters to persuade the nation's leaders.

Or donate money, times or food:

w Second Harvest Tri-Cities: Second Harvest Tri-Cities, www. 2-harvest.org, P.O. Box 6166, Kennewick, 99336, or call 585-3924.

w Tri-Cities Food Banks: Kennewick Food Bank, 420 Deschutes Ave., Kennewick, 99336; Richland Food Bank, 321 Wellsian Way, Richland, 99352; Benton City Food Bank, 712 10th St., Benton City, 99320.

w Fields of Grace gleaning program needs volunteers to help get donated crops from markets and fields to Mid-Columbia food banks. Contact Alissa Watkins at 509 392-1455 or via email at admin@fields-of-grace.com.