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Reducing Hunger to Improve Health

An empty plate and an empty stomach lead to increased health risks. (Greg Stotelmyer)
An empty plate and an empty stomach lead to increased health risks. (Greg Stotelmyer)
September 6, 2017

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. – September is Hunger Action Month and this year those on the front lines, those who work to help keep Kentuckians from going hungry, are focusing on the problem's link to health.

Gary Miles sees up close how hunger gets in the way of a healthy lifestyle. He is executive director of Feeding America, Kentucky's Heartland, which distributes food to those in need in 42 counties.

He says it's vital to remind people that some of their fellow Kentuckians are sometimes living on an empty stomach.

"Aware that there really are hungry people out there, that there really are people who are going without,” he stresses. “The numbers are one in seven adults and one in five children throughout Kentucky don't always know where they're going to get their next meal from."

That's more than 700,000 Kentuckians and 42 million Americans, including 13 million children.

One of the annual efforts to raise awareness will occur on Sept. 14 when people across the nation are urged to write on an empty plate what they couldn't do, without adequate nutrition.

Miles says the state's network of food banks always strives to distribute more healthy food, but it's a funding challenge. He says about half of the 12 million pounds of food Kentucky's Heartland distributes annually is donated, much of it from large grocery chains.

"In those cases, we get what we get,” he states. “We can't go in and say, 'We'd like for you to donate more healthy food,' because they're going to donate what they've got in excess. There's a lot of snacky-type foods in that."

Miles notes government commodity foods, which make up most of the rest, add a healthier component to a food bank's distribution. And, the use of fresh produce is increasing.

Miles says the distribution center he oversees, which serves about a third of Kentucky's counties, moved 800,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables during this year's growing season through the state's Farms to Food Banks program.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY