The numbers are staggering.
As pointed out in an article in this week’s Parade magazine, featured in today’s Times West Virginian, more than 50 million Americans, including one in five children, don’t always know where their next meal is coming from.
However, it’s more than numbers. Much more. Consider the people behind the numbers. It makes the message even more powerful.
Howard G. Buffett, a Midwestern farmer and philanthropist who is the son of billionaire Warren Buffett, is a leading figure working to reduce hunger in America.
How did he get involved? The impact of personally seeing an individual case.
“Before, I never understood how difficult things were in this country, and how they were getting worse,” he said in the Parade interview. “In America, hunger is hidden; people are ashamed of it. I was in Tucson at a food distribution (center) and noticed a woman walk in with three kids. She looked around and then walked back out. I later found out it was the first time she had ever asked for help, and she was embarrassed.”
Right here in Marion County, numerous organizations and individuals take up the fight against hunger virtually every day.
They see more than numbers. They are familiar with the people and the families that want to take care of themselves but are struggling.
“I guess a lot of things are going to have to change government-wise to get things back in order and get things under control,” Bruce Roberts, president of the Fairmont-Marion County Food Pantry, said. “We don’t like to think of our neighbors or our family members going hungry, but that’s something that happens every day, so those that are lucky need to help the ones that are less fortunate.”
Roberts said that last year the food pantry served a total of 6,060 people. That number has already been surpassed in 2012.
“I think that the times are a little tougher and the prices of food and things have gone up,” Roberts said. “People just can’t hardly make it on minimum income.”
Colleen Morris, director of the Mannington Food Pantry, said that it serves more than 1,000 people per month.
“There are a lot of people out of work, a lot of people getting their hours cut back, losing their jobs and having a hard time making ends meet,” Morris said.
Shelia Skidmore, director of the Soup Opera in Fairmont, believes that this year it will serve around 2,000 more people than it did last year.
“The numbers are climbing,” she said. “People really need extra help even if they’re working a part-time job or two minimum-wage jobs. You just can’t make it on that, so they come in here for supplements.”
Fortunately, as we’ve said many times, Marion County is a generous community.
“One thing about this community is that it’s just absolutely wonderful in helping people,” Skidmore said. “I’m not sure what else the community itself could be doing; they’re helping everybody that they can.”
Buffett tells a story about a kid walking down a beach where hundreds of starfish have washed up to illustrate the point.
“An old man asks what he's doing,” he said. “The kid says he’s throwing the starfish back so they won’t die. The old man says he can’t possibly save all of them, but the kid picks another one up, throws it in the ocean, and says, ‘Well, I saved that one.’ So there are times with this issue when we must think big, but we also can’t lose sight of the fact that it’s still one person at a time.”
The numbers are staggering.
Laws to keep mudslinging to minimum can stife free speech
By nature, and by profession, we do not like lies. As journalists, we’re truth tellers. Or at least we attempt to get at the truth through research, attribution, documents and comments from people on either side of an issue.
Sometimes it ends up with “telling lies from both sides,” as a crusty reporter once mused a handful of years ago.
COLUMN: Freedom of Information — if you can pay
Several years ago, I made a Freedom of Information request to a local government agency. Within the five business days, as required by law, a packet of information was delivered to the office. I expected a bill, as most government offices have a charge that ranges from 25 cents to $1.25 per page for copies of the documents we request.
The reassuring spirit of Easter: One of new hope and beginnings
During the sub-zero and snow-filled months of winter, we maintained a spirit of hope that spring was on the way. It has now become a reality as all nature stretches and yawns and awakens once more to a new beginning. The fragrance of spring awakens our waiting nostrils, the budding beauty of new life brightens our eyes, and the reassuring idea of renewal stimulates our minds.
Unsung heroes handling calls in emergencies are appreciated
Thankfully, we live in a community where help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just by dialing three numbers — 9-1-1.
During this week, which is recognized as National Public Safety Tele-Communicator’s Week nationwide, we need to remember that on the other end of that line are the men and women here in this county who are always there in case of accident, crimes, medical emergencies and any other catastrophic event.
Message to ‘buckle up and park the phone’ is saving lives
A figure that we haven’t seen that much in recent years is the highway death toll for a given period.
Is the death toll up, down or just about the same as it was?
The West Virginia Southern Regional Highway Safety Program has announced there were 325 highway fatalities in 2013, the second-lowest number on record.
State native Burwell can ‘deliver results’ as Health and Human Services secretary
Sylvia Mathews Burwell might not be a name with which most people are immediately familiar.
For the past year, she has run the budget office under President Barack Obama.
Prior to that, she served as president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program and later the Wal-Mart Foundation.
Marion scores well in recent health report but could do better
When it comes to area-wide studies, especially on health, there’s usually good news and bad news.
So was the recent report on the health of America’s counties released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently. The nationwide county study evaluated health outcomes and health factors, and ranked counties accordingly.
COLUMN: ‘Instant’ news not always reliable
That little word has a pretty big meaning. With origins that date back to the 15th century, it means urgent, current, immediate.
But think about how that word has developed over the past few decades.
Instant pudding. Instead of slaving over a hot stove for a few minutes, you can now pour cold milk and with a bit of stirring, instant pudding!
Decision to be an organ donor can save lives
Chelsea Clair watched as her father died waiting for a bone marrow transplant.
So when she met Kyle Froelich at a car show in 2009 and heard about his struggles to find a kidney that would match his unique needs, she never hesitated to offer hers to the man she just met.
Volunteers continue to have priceless impact on community
Chances are, you know someone who volunteers. Perhaps you’re a volunteer yourself.
Marion County is full of volunteers.
They read to our youth.
They assist nonprofit agencies.
They serve on boards and committees.
And in 2013, they spent a day picking up nearly 10 tons of garbage that had been tossed out on public property around Marion County.
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