Syracuse international hunger expert says everyone deserves dignity

<font size="2">Boys &amp; Girls Club of Syracuse</font>

CNYCentral continues to put the spotlight on child hunger as we help raise money for the Food Bank of CNY with a special telethon.

Our series of reports continues with unique prospective from a woman who's traveled the world helping the hungry. She shares her insight on why hunger exists and a few simple steps you can take to combat it.

Around the world, there are many faces of hunger. They are children with one basic need: to eat. Many of them come from poor, uneducated families, mostly in developing countries. They are among the 863 million people worldwide who do not have enough to eat. "You see very very sad scenes and talk to people who are very desperate," said Catherine Bertini, a Syracuse University Professor at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

Her professional life has taken her from North Korea to Africa, Afghanistan and more. She has worked under several presidents and spent a decade as the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Program. The work, she says, is far from over. "We still have to do much more because it's unconscionable that we do have hungry people in a country as wealthy as the United States of America," Bertini said.

This week, lawmakers in Washington took steps to help the hungry. In a bipartisan agreement, they passed the long debated Farm Bill, creating stricter eligibility requirements for those participating in SNAP benefits, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, but providing more to Food Banks to help those who need it the most. And there are still many hungry mouths to feed.

At the Jamesville Food Pantry, volunteers constantly stock the shelves to help the 60 families a month who rely on it. It is food these families might otherwise not have. At the Boys and Girls Club of Syracuse, they are filling hungry bellies too.

Across Central and Northern New York, more than 64,000 children are food insecure, meaning they do not know where or when their next meal will be. Nine-percent are in the first few years of their life, a critical time for them to get the nourishment they need. "That time is when their mind is developing, their bodies are developing and there's no redo. If a one-year-old doesn't have enough food to eat when she's one, she can't make it up when she's 10," Bertini said.

That is why programs like WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, are so important. They provide mothers and children food and nutritional advice. And while programs like WIC and SNAP go a long way to help those in need, there is more you can do to help.

Consider donating to the Food Bank of Central New York or a local food pantry. Volunteer to help feed the hungry through your local church, synagogue or mosque. Write your member of Congress, urging them to support programs to help the hungry. "If they see there's a trend, if people are really caring about a certain issue, they're going to stand up and pay attention," Bertini said.

For now, it is partnerships between the Boys and Girls Club and the Food Bank of Central New York that are helping to take a bite out of hunger. They are standing up for those who need a voice so they can live with dignity.

Recent data shows we are making progress on this issue. Child food insecurity rates have declined locally over the last several years, but there is always more to be done.

CNYCentral's telethon to help raise money for the Food Bank of CNY will continue until 7 p.m. Friday. If you would like to make a donation, call (315) 883-3388.