Saturday, December 27, 2008

A new website to fight childhood hunger in Arizona

A new Arizona state program is seeking donors and volunteers to help hungry children. Melissa S. Aude of the Tri Valley Central wrote a story about the program after visiting their new website.

An estimated 33,477 Pinal County children live in poverty or in low-income households, and many suffer from hunger, missed meals and improper nutrition.

With a goal of eradicating childhood hunger throughout the state by 2018, the Arizona Partnership to End Childhood Hunger, a new campaign sponsored by the state Department of Economic Security, is turning to the community and the Internet to ensure that kids throughout the state receive the nutritional food they need.

Last week, the campaign launched a new Web site and online community to encourage anyone who wants to help to sign up. The Web site allows visitors to join an online network, make a donation, begin a fundraising project and recruit friends and family to help in the cause. So far 27 Internet supporters have signed on and several projects have begun in some communities from Globe, where people are raising money for a food bank, to Peoria, where an elementary school is forming a community garden.

"Since this is a new initiative, projects are starting in communities around the state," said Linda Hamman, hunger relief coordinator for the state Office of Community Partnerships and Innovative Practices.

The Arizona Partnership to End Childhood Hunger is a collaborative effort between families, state agencies, local governments, community-based organizers and volunteers. It is based on the philosophy that communities have the tools, resources and expertise to properly feed children, but the challenge is to mobilize assets and find cost-effective solutions.

"The main goal of this initiative is public and community awareness of the assistance available and how communities and individuals can make a difference through education, advocacy and awareness of the issue of hunger in Arizona," Hamman said.

Statewide, more than 700,000 children under the age of 18 live in low-income households and many do receive adequate nutrition, the organization says. With nearly 52 percent of local children living within or near the federal poverty level, Pinal County ranks third in the state as the county with the most economically challenged children. Only Maricopa County and Pima County rank higher.

Part of the problem in fighting childhood hunger is the fact that many of the programs designed to provide food to the poor do not reach all of their target population, according to Hamman.

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