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U.S. National Debt:

Caring For Each Other

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Reports that unemployment statistics in Idaho are down are welcome.  Unfortunately, an estimated 62,000 Idahoans remain jobless and 1 in 6 Idaho residents--including more than 95,000 Idaho children--are food insecure, which means that they lack enough income and other resources for food.  Idahoans, food banks and other organizations have been working effectively to address this problem, including developing successful partnerships with Idaho's agricultural industry.  However, despite success in reducing the number of hungry Idahoans, we are not out of the woods yet, and focus must remain on eliminating hunger in our communities.

More than 20 percent of the food-insecure children are under the age of five.  Globally, nearly one billion people are chronically hungry.  One of the many problems with food insecurity is that malnutrition can lead to significant health problems, including obesity, later in life.  These health issues can contribute to a cycle of financial difficulty.    

The good news is that Idahoans continue to lend a hand to families throughout the state.  Local partnerships between hunger organizations and the agricultural community channel much-needed food to those in need throughout our communities.  A network of emergency food pantries, community kitchens, shelters and other organizations work together to alleviate hunger in innovative ways.  For example, Idaho school children in need are provided with backpacks of food to take home with them over the weekend to help prevent hunger.  Mobile pantries have been organized to provide emergency food services in communities that would otherwise be without these resources.  Grocery stores, supermarkets, agricultural producers, producer groups and community gardens are coordinating food donations to food pantries to ensure better access to needed food.      

Based on 2008-2010 datafrom Volunteering in America, Idahoans devote more than 52 hours of volunteer service per resident, the third highest rate in the country for average hours of service per resident.  This is equal to more than $1.3 billion worth of service.  The collection and distribution of food has been among the top volunteer activities in the state and nationally.  These efforts have contributed to Idaho dropping from the 8 th hungriest state in the nation just six years ago to the 20 th hungriest, but we can do more.

Remarkable work is being done throughout our communities to eliminate hunger and focus attention on helping those in need.  Through steadfast dedication, we can continue to chip away at hunger in Idaho.  I commend all those involved in the ongoing effort and am inspired by the giving spirit of so many Idahoans.  I look forward to a day when all Idaho children will not have to worry about how, where or if they will get their next nutritious meal. 

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