Hunger in Maine is increasing, not least in Knox County.

According to national statistics provided by Maine’s Good Shepherd Food Bank, a full 17% of the local population will experience food insecurity this year. Perhaps more alarming, 28% of local children will be in the same predicament. Knox is one of four Maine counties where the problem is expected to grow the greatest this year.

In an attempt to help solve the problem, the Knox County Food Council, a group of community organizations and individuals, came together in March 2019.

The goal of the Council? Advocating for a healthy food system for our entire community, promoting a collaborative network of organizations and outreach, and providing a network to support, first and foremost, health and wellness for everyone through access to good food.

Now the Council is going public, so to speak and asking others — organizations, businesses and individuals — to join the fight by signing on to the Knox County Food Council Charter. You can sign on by emailing your name, town of residence and the organization you represent (if applicable) to jalbury@mcht.org with the subject line "Food Charter Endorsement.”

In addition, the Knox County Food Council Facebook group at facebook.com/groups/KCfoodCouncil welcomes new members.

Here in the Midcoast, the problem of food insecurity is often hidden behind closed doors. Most don’t see the scenes that exist, for instance, in Portland, with desperate people on street corners literally begging for cash or food and homeless people settling in city parks. Yet the predicament is no less real, especially among children.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a “lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.” This is what it means: going to bed hungry a couple of times a week. Or this: walk down Main Street in Rockland and almost one in every five people you pass probably hasn’t had enough to eat sometime in the last five days.

Disruptions wrought by COVID-19, including unemployment and a slowing economy, have cut deeply into family budgets at the same time that stay-at-home work and schooling create additional anxieties.

As a community, Council members say, we need to come together to help each other, to reinforce community bonds, and to create the infrastructure necessary to support our food system and its links to local agriculture, fisheries and food distribution networks.

The full Knox County Food Council Charter can be seen at aldermere.org/kcfc. Anyone may sign on and join in creating a healthy food system for all.