Kimberly is a Durant woman who has been hungry off and on for the 21 years that she has lived here and accepts full responsibility for the fact.
Her first bout with hunger was before she moved to Oklahoma, when she was on her own at the age of 16. She was too ashamed of being hungry to admit the fact to her mother.
In the years since, she says that she has fallen into hunger a number of times and readily admits that she did because of her own “poor decisions.” These poor decisions have not only put her into hunger on a number of occasions, but have also resulted in her becoming overweight, another problem she discusses openly. In her usual frank way, she refers to it as “being fat.”
Some readers may wonder how an overweight woman can have experienced hunger. The answer is that, in the situation described here, obesity is simply the result of a vicious cycle: Go hungry, pig out, hungry, pig out … Overeating at times and poor nutrition.
Last fall, quite by accident, Kimberly met a member of The Bryan County Coalition Against Hunger (BCCAH) at a local business and straightforwardly remarked that she knew about hunger. Somewhat later, she agreed to talk about hunger — to tell her story.
Hunger is a huge problem around the nation. New research from Washington University shows that, in any given year, 40% of the population will spend most or all of the year in poverty. Another finding is that, sometime in their lives, 54% of Americans will spend at least a year in poverty.
In the chance meeting with a BCCAH member, Kimberly said that she believed the only way to begin to deal with this problem is “to speak out — to be willing to talk.”
And she has followed through with her promise. In November, she spoke briefly to the crowd gathered for the kick-off of The Bryan County Coalition Against Hunger. Still later, she talked at length with two BCCAH reporters for the information in this story.
Now, she has also become a member of The Bryan County Coalition Against Hunger network, the group of about 30 county residents who communicate regularly by e-mail and meet monthly to discuss and plan ways to increase public awareness of the extent of the hunger problem and the sources available to help those in need.
At a recent meeting of the Coalition, Kim and the Director of Hands of Hope, Sue Stanfield, discussed the problem of hunger and obesity at some length. Kim, who has been dieting and losing weight, explains, “It’s hard to lose weight on beans and rice and noodles,” which are understandably staples at the pantries because they are excellent food to fill hungry bellies. But it is, indeed, difficult to plan nutritious, non-fattening meals with these ingredients.
Local pantries have addressed the problem, Sue says. They now offer fresh produce — fruits and vegetables. Still, it is problematic to offer much fresh produce with present facilities — no air-conditioning and inadequate refrigeration.However, Hands of Hope is making a significant improvement this year. Supported by the Oklahoma Regional Food Bank in Oklahoma City, the local source will build a new facility on the site between 7th and 8th on West Main. It will be an extensive remodeling of the present buildings and the addition of a large new building with increased refrigeration, and all parts will have air-conditioning.
Such improvements will make it easier to stock the nutritious, non-fattening foods Kimberly and others need.
While she is volunteering to help further the struggle against hunger, Kimberly is also studying and trying to learn the computer business. Because she was on her own at age 16, one of her life-long problems has been a lack of job skills. Now, at age 38, she is making a renewed effort to increase her learning.
She has also approved having her picture on a flyer urging other people who have experienced hunger to come forward and tell their stories.
Kimberly realized that in order to help with the problem, the general population must see it in real human terms. As she points out, many hungry people just “make poor choices.” And there are also many who were just born into the problem and grew up with it as a way of life.
Studies by the United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, the Department of Agriculture, the Census Bureau, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology show clearly that hungry people are just like the rest of the population in other respects. As with the rest of people, their problems are the result of human nature.
This is Kimberly’s goal: To help all of us see the human side of hunger. And, as another network member, Sandra Levins, says, The Bryan County Coalition Against Hunger is just “neighbors helping neighbors.”
The Bryan County Coalition Against Hunger describes itself as “a group of ordinary people concerned about their community.” It is a non-partisan organization, and it is open to all Bryan Countians.
For more information about the Coalition, contact Joe Littlejohn by phone at 924-2845 or e-mail at jelittlejohn@communicomm or Marion Hill at 924-7715 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(This article was provided by The Bryan County Coalition Against Hunger)