Most people associate children's hunger with inner cities. But according to The Forgotten Fifth, a study put out by the University of New Hampshire, one in five poor children lives in a rural area.
The USDA reports that
Persistent-poverty counties, identified by ERS in 1994, are nonmetro counties with 20 percent of more of their population in poverty in each of the census years 1960, 1970, 1980, and 1990 (Cook and Mizer). Most of these counties, 443 out of 535, are in the South.
Consider this USDA map. The bright red patches represent persistently poor rural counties:
I live in one of the red patches.
I live and work in Rio Arriba County, the bright red patch in north central New Mexico at the Colorado border. It is the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined.
According to the Kids' Count Data Book project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, most of America's poorest communities can be found in "majority minority" counties (i.e. counties in which less than 50% of the population is caucasian). Rio Arriba fits the profile.
In 2008, 71.9% of Rio Arriba residents were Hispanic, 16% were native American and 13.1% were Anglo. Its Hispanic residents have lived here since the 17th century (before the American Revolution), while its Native American population dates back to approximately 1050 CE.
Like many of its persistently poor southern counterparts, which are inhabited by the descendents of African-American sharecroppers, Rio Arriba is an agricultural community. While rural African Americans remain segregated in the Deep South and hence lack access to transportation, schools, work and food, in the Southwest, Native Americans and Hispanics often live in separate communities and lack access to the same necessities.
Chronically poor Rio Arriba borders the two wealthiest counties in New Mexico. One, primarily Anglo, Los Alamos County, ranks fifth in terms of wealth for all US counties. Ironically, it is a food desert. Because we are poor and rural, we have few grocery stores. Most of them do not buy local produce. To buy local produce, or any produce, we often have to drive to Los Alamos or Santa Fe.
Food banks are one solution to the problem.
Each month, The Food Depot, a huge warehouse and foodbank in Santa Fe, distributes an average of 300,000 pounds of food and household products throughout Northern New Mexico, providing more than 400,000 meals through its partner agencies. In the last eight years, the food bank has distributed 17.6 million pounds of food and related product. The Food Depot buys from local growers. The last time I visited, I saw pallet upon pallet of apples grown at orchards near my house.
The Food Depot is a Feeding America project. If you donate here to Feeding America, Proctor and Gamble will match you.
The Food Depot hunger-relief network is composed of 110 partner agencies including emergency food pantries, hot meal programs, homeless shelters, youth programs, group homes, senior centers, children's homes, day care centers, and shelters for battered persons.
Its service area includes nine counties – Santa Fe, San Miguel, Rio Arriba, Taos, Mora, Colfax Union, Harding and Los Alamos – in Northern New Mexico. The food bank delivers to distribution centers in Taos, Espanola, Mora, Los Alamos, Raton, Clayton, Springer and Las Vegas to better serve partner agencies in rural and remote areas.
The Food Depot provides relief to victims of natural disasters through local disaster relief agencies. In 2000, the food bank joined local efforts to aid the victims of the Cerro Grande fires by providing 1,361,467 pounds of food.
UPDATE: Yay! Thanks, y'all!