WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) --     Hunger in America is becoming epidemic, yet in the United States we have an overall standard of living near the top of the list. We have so much in this country that many people donít give a second thought to hunger.

    So just how close are you to hunger? In many cases you donít have to go very far to find families that struggle with putting food on the table every day. For most of us it is a somewhat invisible problem. You just donít know if your neighbor is getting enough food to stave off the pangs of hunger. Most of us have no idea what it is like to be truly hungry. In fact a lot of us could stand to miss a meal now and then, but for young children it can be devastating. Imagine if you are four or five years old, and you have to go to bed not having  any food since lunch time. It probably is not so bad once  in a while, but when it becomes routine then it is a real problem.

    Fortunately there are many local organizations, state and federal programs that provide food for those who can not afford it. But even with all of these programs there are social difficulties that enter the picture. Addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling, and smoking can be big factors in children being denied nutrition they need to deal with the rigors of going to school.

    There is no denying that children do far better in school when they have a healthy continuous diet. Fortunately we have a great local school district that provides low or no cost hot lunches and  free breakfast for our students. In Walnut Grove the elementary school also provides lunches during the summer for any children up to 18 years of age, through a federal grant program.

    In Westbrook families can get food from Mary and  Marthaís Pantry once a week on Mondays from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m.

    Another thing we should be concerned about is the cost of hunger to Minnesotan's. According to the University of Minnesota Food Industry Center, hunger costs Minnesotan's at least $1.2 billion every year! To put that in perspective, if we could eliminate all hunger in the state we could build a new Vikings stadium every year, and still have money left over to spend foolishly.

    But children are not the only ones going hungry, there are many adults on fixed incomes that often have to choose between medicine, food or other necessities. Fortunately there are many programs beside our local food shelves, including food stamps, and medical assistance to provide much needed health care.

    But even with what we are doing and the programs we have, we can do better.

Have a great week and do good!