By KORTNEY RODGERS
THE Bahamas National Feeding Network made good on its promise to combat hunger in the country by donating $30,000 in food vouchers to more than a dozen feeding organisations during a ceremonial luncheon held at Luciano’s of Chicago restaurant, East Bay Street yesterday.
“I have seen people on benches, asleep on curbs, even in graveyards and I have seen the extent and the pain of hunger in this country. It isn’t pretty, and if you have never gone to bed hungry, you don’t know how it feels. Hunger hurts,” said Philip Smith, executive director of the National Feeding Network.
He added: “We want to stop that hurt and find a way to feed every single person in the Bahamas, starting with every single person in New Providence, then spreading to the Family Islands, but we cannot do this alone.”
According to Salvation Army Divisional Commander and a director of the Feeding Network, Major Lester Ferguson, poverty in the Bahamas is greater than persons realise. As reported by the Department of Statistics’ household survey, the national poverty rate in 2013 was 12.5 per cent, up from 9.3 per cent in 2001.
“Every week, dozens of people stand outside just waiting for us to open the doors and by the time we are serving, we could have up to 200 people – young old, formerly employed, down on their luck – they all come together because they know there is comfort, hot food and spiritual companionship,” Major Ferguson said.
Grateful for the helping hand, some 31 organisations were present to receive food vouchers to help replenish their feeding centres.
“We are very grateful because this will be a great help to our various feeding programmes that we operate daily. It’s so important because of the great increase in needs. People are really hurting in the area of feeding,” Minalee Hanchell, a representative from Great Commission Ministries International, said.
Minister Laura Johnson Taylor from Ejhay’s Hilltop Cottage Ministries also attended the ceremony to represent the feeding centre that assists the Kemp Road community.
“We were praying to God for an intervention because some of our programmes are suffering because of lack of supplies. There is a pressing need for a network such as this and I thank God for it. It’s timely and it’s going to fill a big void,” she said.
The Feeding Network is also soliciting the public’s assistance by hosting a Dollar Day later this month at participating grocery stores and banks.
Using 55 gallon drums donated by Bahamas Waste, the network is requesting donations into the drums found in these participating stores.
A coin drive is also planned for students to learn the value of giving by contributing spare coins for one day to help feed the hungry.
“This is a national effort and we pledge to provide a national solution because in a country of riches like the Bahamas, no one should have to go to bed hungry,” Mr Smith said.