Here's a staggering statistic: one out of five people in Westchester need food assistance.
So even here, in one of America's wealthiest counties, we are faced with quite the opposite.
Thursday morning in recognition of Hunger Action Month, about 150 representatives from about 70 food relief agencies in Westchester have gathered for a day of of educational seminars to help them better get food to hungry people. This the fourteenth such annual gathering hosted by the Food Bank of Westchester.
Keynote speaker Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, began the day at the DoubleTree Hotel with a rousing talk debunking myths about who the hungry are and how we can better help them.
"They are working people, children, senior citizens, veterans, people with disabilities," Berg said. They are not "irresponsible." Eighty percent of them had work or were looking for work within the last year.
Both Berg and the Food Bank of Westchester's board chair Rick Rackow talked about how the federal government was failing them. The farm subsidies and food stamp programs that used to go together have recently been severed. The Farm Act, said Rackow, "is good news for farmers but not good news for hungry people throughout America."
Berg said inmates at Ossining's Sing Sing prison eat better than our poor. "Prisoners are the only Americans with a constitutional right to food and three meals a day," he said.
And certainly the problem of hunger has nothing to do with a scarcity of food -- our country produces far more than we need. "It's poverty," said Berg. "We need to address poverty."
Most of the people helping the hungry are volunteers themselves, Berg said. They go unpaid, working for decades, often actually buying the food from their own pockets.
This food adds up. By the pound and by municipality, the Food Bank distributes annually to:
Cortlandt Manor: 38,466
Dobbs Ferry: 138,244
Mohegan Lake: 114,902
Mount Kisco: 267,008
Mount Vernon: 775,706
New Rochelle: 631,558
Port Chester: 651,675
Putnam Valley: 2,199
White Plains: 692,480