I’m not talking about when there’s no food in the house that you want. Or those times when you’re simply too tired to make something.
I’m talking about those times when there has been no money to buy food, no friends or relatives to give you any, and no food in the pantry. You go to bed hungry simply because you have no choice.
I’ve been blessed never to have had to go through that. But millions of men, women and children go through this every day. Thanks to the recession, the number of people depending on food stamps and food pantries has risen dramatically.
Today, the non-profit Feeding America reports that 1 in 6 Americans depend on a food pantry to get by; this is roughly 49 million people. And the number of children relying on food banks has increased a whopping 50% since 2006.
Here in Michigan, those numbers are even worse. In the Metro Detroit area, 1 in 4 families with children admit they don’t have enough to money to buy food.
It’s a vicious cycle, however. Just when food banks need donations so badly to support this massive increase in need, those very donations have plummeted, again, thanks to the recession. A Google search will show you the same phrases over and over again: need increasing, food donations down.
According to statistics on the Feeding America site, Mississippi is the state with the highest food insecurity. 17.4% of the population doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from. Texas comes in at #2, with 16.3%. You can check the stats of your own state here.
September is Hunger Action Month. This means that food pantries throughout the nation are desperately trying to raise awareness, and donations, to pad their pantries for the upcoming winter season.
How to Help
I know it’s easy to feel helpless about this. But combating hunger is something we can do easily, and it can literally save lives right in our own community.
There are several things we can do to help.
1. Find Your Local Food Pantry
If you want to find your local food pantry, click here, where you can see a complete listing by state.
Food pantries always welcome food donations. But you will make a much bigger impact if you donate money.
The reason is because thanks to their buying power, most food pantries can stretch a dollar much, much further than we can.
Donating just $50 to Feeding America will provide an incredible 350 meals to families all over the country. Plus if you donate to Feeding America during the month of September, Ameriprise Financial will match your donation 2 to 1. So the organization gets a much larger donation if you take action this month.
You can donate to Feeding America here.
3. Switch Your Priorities
If your own finances are tight right now, take a look at your current bills. If you’re paying for cable TV, why not cancel it and give that money to your local food bank instead?
I did this when I cancelled my own cable and home phone line 2 years ago. The money I was spending on those monthly bills I simply send to Gleaners every month, as an automatic payment. I can honestly tell you that I don’t miss that TV or phone one bit, and now that money is helping feed people in my community.
Take a look at your monthly expenditures. Try to find something you can cancel or cut back on so you can send that money to a local food bank.
4. Join Huddle to Fight Hunger
If you join the Huddle to Fight Hunger group, Kraft will donate a meal to someone in need in your community. This is an easy way to make a difference. It literally takes 30 seconds or less.
5. Make a Difference in Your Neighborhood
Chances are, someone in your neighborhood is in desperate need of food assistance. Do you have an idea of who might need help?
If so, why not make them dinner and bring it over one night? Why not bring them extra food you have on hand? Since 1 in 6 people in this country need food assistance, chances are we ALL live close to someone, or know someone, who needs help.
6. Take a Close Look at Your Own Food
The average person on food stamps gets $133 per month.
Think about that for a moment. They get $133 per month for food.
I spent that yesterday, in one trip, at the grocery store.
Even with food stamps it’s hard for families to get by. This is why food pantries and soup kitchens are so vital to the survival of many people. They bridge the gap between going to bed hungry, and going to bed with a full belly.
You can make a difference by offering your time. Food pantries and soup kitchens are always looking for volunteers. Volunteering is an amazing experience, and could help you just as much as you’re helping others.
8. Clean Out Your Pantry
There are tons of events and fund raising going on all over the country this month to help raise awareness. Food drives are everywhere, and most of the time food drops are in local, easy to get to places like banks and grocery stores.
For instance, my local food pantry Gleaners has 7 events going on in my area this month. And if you live in the Metro Detroit area, you can drop off non-perishable food all this month at Walgreens; the food will go to Forgotten Harvest food pantries.
Search your local paper or Google for local food drives in your area. Clean out your pantry, and donate some of the food you’re not using.
Do you have a ton of food growing in your garden right now?
Tons of charities nationwide need fresh produce. For instance, my local charity is Forgotten Harvest. If you grow your own food in the Metro Detroit area, you can drop it off in several locations around the area, to be donated to people in need.
Have you been canning? Donate your canned goods to a local food bank, or to a local family you know is in need.
All of us can do something to help.
Please take the time to take action against hunger this month. I’m going to be increasing my own donations to take advantage of corporate matching, and I’m going to get involved in the events taking place in my area.
My challenge to you is this: do something to make a difference. If even all if you can give is $5, that’s still 35 meals if you donate to Feeding America. And by donating this month, that $5 will turn into $15, which means 105 meals to a community.
That is a huge difference.
Do any of you have more tips to help stop hunger and take action? If so I’d love to hear them!