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Local activist working to end hunger in Milwaukee

Posted at 6:02 PM, Nov 20, 2018

As people prep for their Thanksgiving meal, a local woman is sharing some important food for thought, to put this holiday in perspective. 

"One in four households where children are present, won't know if they'll have a meal on Thanksgiving," said Rayna Andrews. "Turkey, and all the fixings aren't the norm for everyone."

According to Andrews, the reality of hunger in Milwaukee is more shocking than most realize. It doesn't go away on holidays and has far-reaching implications. 

"When you're hungry, you can't think, or learn, or function well," she said. 

More than 85 percent of Milwaukee Public School students qualify for free breakfast and lunch.

"You have kids coming to school and that breakfast and lunch is all they have," Andrews said. "When they go home for dinner, dinner isn't there."

Rayna knows that feeling. That's why she's working to make sure all local families have access to affordable, nutritious food every day.

"Growing up, my mother became very ill and there was a period of time where we didn't know where our next meal would come from," Andrews said. "I was mortified. I was so embarrassed of needing food assistance. It's because we condition communities not to speak up, that we don't know who's hungry."

 When in reality, someone we know is likely dealing with food insecurity, but keeping it secret.

"The face of hunger isn't only someone who's homeless," Andrews said. "The guy next door who has a Master's degree, might have gotten laid off, now he's food insecure. An elderly neighbor is having to make decisions between paying rent and bills, or paying for things at the grocery store. The single mom who's using all her extra money to feed her family, and sometimes it's not enough."

Rayna works with Feeding America, and just wrote a children's book focusing on the importance of fresh food. It's called "Alex McGreen and the Tale of the Mysterious Kale."

"We need to make healthy food available to everyone," Andrews said. "Food is medicine. It's teaching families how to make something with a squash they got at the local food pantry. All too often our food comes in cardboard boxes and plastic. We don't know what's in it. When I visit schools with my book, I find even a lot of teachers and parents aren't sure about where fresh pineapple or mangos comes from, or what it tastes like. To me, that's heart-wrenching."

So what can we do? Support local resources, whether with food or monetary donations, or by volunteering our time.

"Alex McGreen and the Tale of the Mysterious Kale" is available for purchase on Amazon and at Beans and Barley. For more information on the book click here.