Valley Baptist Medical Center’s Healthy Over Hungry cereal drive, which runs through Friday, reminds us that while many people donate food during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, hunger is a year-round problem.
The medical consortium is working with the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley to ensure that more local residents have at least one fortified meal per day, even if it’s cereal. A $5 donation funds 25 bowls of cereal, almost a month’s worth.
The meals are needed. While the bounties of the year-end holidays inspire many people to share what they have with the less fortunate, contributions fall off during the summer months.
For many people, particularly the elderly and children, that’s when the need is greatest. Retirees on reduced incomes often have higher medical bills, and families whose children eat subsidized meals at school can find the cost of higher summer food consumption at home to be strain on the family budget. Many schools offer tax-funded meals during the summer, but they might be in other neighborhoods or the families might not know about them.
According to Valley Baptist’s website, whole-grain cereal, especially when accompanied by dairy, fruit and lean protein, can help reduce hunger during the summer months when children are not in school.
A 2014 Hunger in America study reported that 53 percent of those polled had received help from friends in order to eat; 79 percent had bought less nutritious food because it was cheaper, and 66 percent had to choose between food and medical care.
Such decisions can be bad, since less-healthy food or irregular eating schedules can lead to serious medical problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Treating those conditions can be much more costly than a healthy diet, both financially and in quality of life.
In addition, several studies have shown that a healthy diet improves cognitive development and school performance. Children who go hungry tend to be in poorer health and struggle in school.
People in food-insecure households also are more likely to face psychological and behavioral problems, according to FeedingAmerica.org. Behavioral problems like hyperactivity, anxiety and aggression among children has been linked to poor diet or skipped meals.
Donations are encouraged at either Valley Baptist Medical Center in Brownsville or Harlingen, or at the Food Bank in McAllen or at its website, foodbankrgv.com.
Of course, hunger doesn’t end with the cereal drive on Friday, and neither do opportunities to help. The food bank invites community members to DoubleTree Suites in McAllen from 1p.m.-3 p.m. Saturday for an Empty Bowls Paint Party. Bowls can be designed as volunteers wish, and they will be used for the Empty Bowls fundraising meal scheduled Sept. 17 in Pharr.
Having a good meal is one of the most basic things most people do every day — so basic, in fact, that many people might forget that many people don’t have access to daily nutrition.
Fortunately, organizations such as Valley Baptist are helping to address the problem. But to do so, they need everyone’s help.