Hunger! So how to we know people are hungry simple…Statistics and nosy people! Nosey people meaning the state and federal health departments researching and gathering statistics on individuals and their health pertaining to food resources, income, and surrounding environment and I am personally thankful that we are so nosey because then this information is used to provide people data to help change these negative stats into helpful initiatives to promote change.
Here are some hard facts about childhood hunger in AZ:
I had the opportunity to interview Gloria Garcia-Hernandez who works for the
She is on the AZ Preventing Action Plan board team Arizona Department of Economic Security: Coordinated Hunger Relief Program. She is a member of the AZ Hunger Advisory Counsel: https://des.az.gov/services/basic-needs/food-assistance/des-hunger-advisory-council
Her role is to help support the council and the director of the AZ Department of Economic Security in working on initiatives and strategies to help end hunger and food insecurity in Arizona.
Thank You Mrs. Garcia-Hernandez for taking time out of your day to talk and share a little bit about your role and how we can further assist your cause.
- The Action Plan has three core goals and nine strategies what strategy do you feel AZ is excelling in.
We are not doing well on them so we created these to be our goals and due to the team leader of this project being out of office for personal reasons, we did not do much last year. This year we have started working on them again so we will know soon where our strengths and weaknesses are.
- What are tangible ways Nurse Practitioner’s can engage in this hunger topic?
First, health providers need to routinely ask the screening questions for food insecurity with every assessment. Second, health providers knowing about the food resources and terminology to give to their patients.
DES and Hunger Relief have an interactive map with resources online. This map gives current information on places and times for food pick-ups. This map is updated quarterly.
This is a perfect example of an intersect of using innovation and technology to help this issue of hunger and food insecurity in Arizona. This is a digital map and it is really helpful for users to know about.
- What are tangible ways the public can be involved?
The public needs to know the difference between food insecurity, food deserts, and hunger. The terms all mean different things and people think of starvation, which is often not the case. It is not people who are starving but its people who do not have the money for fresh produce they can only afford canned foods. We are not talking about people starving. Fastest group is seniors at this time.
- What message would you like to tell everyone about these topics? Any misconceptions or myths you want to dispel.
A myth is people who are accessing food banks they are chronic abusers of the system its people who need short term relief. On average, a family will use these for 7 months.
- What resources are there for children? The office of Education they provide the school lunches, back programs, after school program feeding, and summer program funds children. People do not know this but Apache County is the third worst country for child hunger this is because these children live on the Navajo nation and have fewer resources. Maricopa County fifth worst for childhood hunger and that is because it is the largest county with the highest volume.
- Why did you become involved with the hunger topic?
We do what we do because we want to help people and make a difference. This is one of the most concrete ways to help people.
- How do you perceive the legislation pertaining to food hunger and any struggles or achievements?
State employees are unable to speak about legislation. The Association of AZ Food Banks they work more on the legislation and policy end. Ashley Saint Thomas works 602-528-3434
Privacy in regards to hunger is complex because people are ashamed that they do not have enough to afford healthy food so its not like people write about it on there Facebook feed: “Hey guys I’m hungry and I don’t have enough food to feed my kids!” I personally have not seen that in my friend group but what I do know is I was hungry in college and thank God, for my school having free food on certain days I would load up on food and survive. I remember buying rice and beans because that was cheap and it made me full. I have come a long way and I was not really starving but it was difficult.
Hunger, food insecurity, food desserts, childhood hunger these are all complex topics with no easy fix but progress is being made. Thanks to Gloria Garcia- Hernandez for the interview.