Food Bank Director Says Families Often Don't Fit Expected Image Of Hunger

May 24, 2019

Jamie Sizemore, executive director of Feeding America Kentucky's Heartland, speaks at the Bowling Green Noon Rotary Club on May 22.
Credit Rhonda Miller / WKYU

The director of a Kentucky food bank told members of the Bowling Green Noon Rotary Club on May 22 not to assume they know what a hungry person looks like. 

A person who doesn’t have enough to eat might have had a medical emergency or car problem that used up their already tight budget.

Jamie Sizemore is executive director of Feeding America Kentucky’s Heartland, a food bank that serves 42 counties. She said there is hunger in communities across Kentucky and it often occurs when there's a family crisis and rent, utilities, car payments and gas to get work take priority over food.

“Most people have this image of what a person’s going to look like, or what position they’re going to be in causing them to be hungry, but that is so far from the truth," said Sizemore. "You are going to have those traditional people who could be homeless or out of work that are going to need food assistance, but more than 70 percent of our clients do not fit that.” She said many of the people served by the food bank are working two minimum wage jobs and when a crisis hits, their grocery cart is filled with whatever is the cheapest and goes the farthest. 

"When people say to me, how can that person be experiencing hunger because they could be obese, it’s because they’re eating high processed foods they shouldn’t be eating. And so they end up getting sick, they end up needing medical attention, they have a chronic illness down the road," said Sizemore. "It’s just cycle that we’ve got to break.”

She said the latest Mind the Meal Gap report shows there are 18,320 adults and 4,850 children, just in Warren County, who don’t have reliable access to enough food. She said the food bank is working increase the 'Backpack Program' in Warren County, a project that sends food home with children on Friday so they have it for the weekend when they don’t get meals at school.

Sizemore said Barren County is currently an area of concern because 16 percent of adults and 21 percent of children in the county don’t always have a reliable source of food.

She said the food bank plans to address the shortage of food in Barren County with two mass distributions, although a date hasn’t been set. The food will be distributed at locations in Glasgow and Cave City.

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