There are hungry people in Yuma County, including a lot of kids, even though at times those who need food may prefer to hide the stigma of that reality.There were several stories in the Yuma Sun this week that give insight into the problem with hunger here.The first involves the Yuma Community Food Bank and is the most clear indication of the food problem and also an indication that it may be increasing.The food bank reported it had provided sustenance to 24,436 individuals last month. That is the largest number since the food bank opened in 1978. That followed small decreases in the prior two months where 23,000 were served in March and 22,000 in April.There are a number of factors involved in causing a large number of Yuma-area residents to be “food insecure” — the term used to describe those who are unsure where their next meal may be coming from.a key factor is the impact of the economic downturn from which our community has yet to fully recover. this is a tale that can be told in our unemployment numbers that are on the rise again.it was reported Friday that Yuma County’s unemployment rate is approaching 30 percent. That is comparable to the jobless rate for the nation in the great Depression of the 1930s. Is it any wonder that many people are going to the food bank for assistance?even those who are employed are often living paycheck to paycheck, noted Jody Hasty, director of resources and development at the food bank. She added that when people are struggling to make ends meet, there may not be enough to buy all the food they need. These people turn to the food bank for help.The high cost to try to keep cool in the hot summers is another factor that puts pressure on people’s money resources, as does the seasonal aspect of some jobs here. The summer months are the hardest time for seasonal workers.another sign of the hunger problem comes from our schools.it was announced this week that the Yuma Union High School District will be providing free meals for local children through part of the summer. The breakfasts and lunches will also be provided for adults at a low cost. There are no bureaucratic requirements — just that you eat the food there. The funding comes from a U.S. Department of Agriculture program.What’s this all about, some may ask? why should schools be feeding kids in the summer?Here’s the reality. often the only food some children get on a regular basis comes from the schools. it is estimated that more than 40 percent of children in Yuma County are food insecure.Hungry kids can’t learn — that is why many local schools provide meals. it may be the only thing they eat that day. The meals are often free to all students because so many of their students qualify for the free food. Giving them to all students also reduces the stigma of poverty and hunger.just because the schools are out doesn’t mean these kids stop being hungry. some families turn to the food bank. The schools also try to help by providing meal programs. a number of other local agencies also provide meals throughout the year to those who need them.At the other end of the spectrum from children, many of the elderly are often struggling to survive on meager pensions. Many have worked hard all their lives and it embarrasses them to ask for help, but they do it nevertheless so they can eat.The unemployed, the low-paid workers struggling to get by, the children without food, the elderly trying to survive — it is a tragic picture people at the food bank see every day.Food bank director Mike Ivers compares it to a war.“Yuma is a very military-oriented community,” he told the Yuma Sun. “We’re fighting a war against hunger here in Yuma and we can win.”part of waging that war is getting donations of money and food. it is a never-ending effort, but right now the food bank is in the midst of its summer Stock Our Shelves Campaign.If you want to help, visit the food bank’s website at yumafoodbank.org or call 343-1243.They will be very grateful for any help that is provided, as will those who are suffering from hunger.Terry Ross is director of the Yuma Sun’s News and Information Center. Email: . Telephone: 539-6870.