Fight Hunger in Your Community


I grew up in a working class home in the Detroit area. My dad was a tool and die maker; my mother worked part time at the public library. For reasons I never clearly understood, it seemed every winter my dad was either laid off or his union went on strike. Like many other working class families then, my parents temporarily would receive food stamps to help with their grocery bill.

With six kids to feed and never an extra dime to spare, my mother came up with different ways to feed her brood. Creamed tuna on toast was one dinner I remember – canned tuna and green peas dumped into a white sauce served over toast. Not bad, but nothing I ever made once I grew up.

Sometimes we had breakfast for dinner. If it were scrambled eggs, I would not have minded; I sometimes make that for myself if I am home alone for dinner. But one item my mom made for us that I refuse to eat for dinner to this day – and don’t even really like for breakfast – is pancakes. I hated having pancakes for dinner!

As I grew up, moved out and began to donate to various charitable causes, organizations focused on feeding people became the ones I supported most frequently. I make it a point to contribute canned goods to any food drive that comes up. I donate as generously as I can to America’s Second Harvest (now called Feeding America). And La Vista, the organic farm I belong to, donates excess produce each week to the Alton Crisis Food Center as part of our mission. In 2009 we donated nearly 4,000 pounds.


Boy Scouts in Troop 7 unload donated food items during the annual "Scouting for Food"
Boy Scouts in Troop 7 unload donated food items during the annual "Scouting for Food" | Source

Food insecurity leaves people hungry

Food insecurity refers to the USDAs measure of a lack of access to enough food for an active healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.

In Illinois, nearly 1.5 million residents, including more than 600,000 children, were “food insecure” and turned to soup kitchens and food pantries at some point in 2009.

One local business, Freer Auto Body, has sponsored Operation Kid Meals each spring for the past four years. Drop-off boxes are placed around town to collect “kid-friendly” food and snacks that need little or no cooking. Many children rely on school breakfasts and lunches for meals to supplement dinner at home. Or perhaps they are in place of dinner at home. And when school is out for the summer, they go hungry.

Hunger never takes a break. No matter the time of year, people are going hungry. A recent study indicates the numbers have risen over the past couple years. Hunger in America 2010 was conducted by Feeding America. It showed that their network of food banks is feeding 1 million more Americans each week than they were in 2006.

The number of clients the Crisis Food Center in Alton serves increased 34% between 2009 and 2001. Assistance to two of the most vulnerable demographic groups - children under age 6 and seniors - increased 44% and 52% respectively.


Feeding America facts for Missouri and Illinois

Feeding America’s website has an interactive map with data from 2009 and 2010. Because I live across the Mississippi River from St. Louis Missouri, I looked at information for both states.

 
Overall
Children
National
17.1%
22.7%
Missouri
16.1%
21.6%
Illinois
15%
22.2%

.

Test your hunger knowledge

Take Feeding America's quiz to see how much you know about hunger in America. I got 100% -- what about you?


Map the meal gap

The Feeding America website has an interactive map showing food insecurity in each of the 50 states. Click on your state to find out the overall and child food insecurity rates.

Source
Source
A table of bowls created by local artists for the Empty Bowl fundraiser. Attendees purchase a bowl and receive a lunch of soup in return. All proceeds go toward the Alton Crisis Food Center.
A table of bowls created by local artists for the Empty Bowl fundraiser. Attendees purchase a bowl and receive a lunch of soup in return. All proceeds go toward the Alton Crisis Food Center. | Source

What can you do?

There are a number of steps you can take to help alleviate hunger in your community.

  • Donate to a food drive or sponsor one. Instead of having your guests bring a gift to a birthday or dinner party, ask them to bring a non-perishable food item for the local food pantry.
  • Volunteer your time at a local food bank. Non-profits with tight budgets are always in need of help.
  • Organize a fundraiser that will benefit your local food bank. For the past few years, the Alton Crisis Food Center and the Jacoby Arts Center have hosted the Empty Bowls Project. For a donation, attendees receive a handcrafted bowl with a simple lunch. The bowls serve as a reminder of the empty bowls in the community.
  • Check your state income tax form. Some states, such as Illinois, allows taxpayers to make donations directly from their refunds to a specific list of organization.
  • Try living on $5 a day for one week. That’s about the average amount of money a person on food stamps has available for food.
  • Call your member of Congress and urge him to support legislation helping people struggling with hunger.
  • Teach your children that healthy food matters for all of us, including those in need.
  • Raise awareness of hunger in your community by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
  • Prepare for the unexpected. Prepare two emergency food boxes – keep one for your family and give one to a family in need, in case of a disaster.
  • Support local colleges and universities whose students may be sponsoring a National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Campus Food Drive in mid-November.


An assortment of beans, along with rice. A combination of rice and beans provides a complete protein. Beans provide fiber, potassium, folate, iron, manganese and magnesium, and they are cholesterol- and fat-free.
An assortment of beans, along with rice. A combination of rice and beans provides a complete protein. Beans provide fiber, potassium, folate, iron, manganese and magnesium, and they are cholesterol- and fat-free.

What to donate to a food pantry

I remember interviewing the director of the Alton Crisis Food Center a couple years ago. In the course of our conversation, she mentioned that someone had donated a can of vegetables that was obviously long past it's shelf life. This brought up what food pantries need most.

Cash is the number one item food banks would like donated. With the power of bulk purchases behind them, the dollar you give them can go further than if you had spent that $1 on a can of tuna.

Usually when people donate food items it's because they want the personal connection and feeling of satisfaction they get from feeling like they had a direct impact on someone's life. If you prefer to donate nonperishable items, consider the following:

  • Proteins: Canned meats, fish or substantial soups, peanut butter and dried beans and dried milk are all good choices.
  • Carbohydrates: Rice, hot cereals, noodles, pasta.
  • Canned vegetables and canned and dried fruits. Fruit juices are also nice to include.
  • Consider, too, non-food items such as laundry detergent and toiletries such as soap and shampoo. Diapers and wipes are always welcome.

Don't donate perishable goods unless you've made arrangements with the pantry ahead of time. Don't donate rusty, unlabeled cans. If you wouldn't feed it to your family, why would someone else want to?


No step is too small to take in the fight against ending hunger and no donation is ever turned away, so please consider the less fortunate in your community.

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Comments 13 comments

smcopywrite profile image

smcopywrite 5 years ago from all over the web

wonderful hub about an issue that our country should pay more attention to. i believe that with our current economic situation the food insecure households will continue to grow.


Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 5 years ago from Great Britain

l think it is a remarkable and wonderful thing that you do.

Many peopl after childhood experiences like yours, just think of themselves , fearful of ever going hungry again.

You are doing a great job, but it´s sad that in a wealthy country there should be any need for this.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

Great hub with a lot of suggestions for alleviating hunger in our own communities. I was stunned by some of the statistics and the amount of money each state would need to spend in order to eradicate hunger.

I think it's wonderful that La Vista donates fresh produce to your local crisis food center.

I grew up in a household where there was sometimes a scarcity of food and was grateful that I got a hot meal at school. As you pointed out, having experienced the pangs of hunger tends to make one more compassionate toward those who are currently "food insecure" (a term I never heard of before, but it makes sense.)

Thanks for sharing this information and bringing attention to this increasingly common problem.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

If people don't have their basic needs met, nothing else matters, especially when children are involved. Children who don't get all the nutritious food they need don't develop properly and they don't do well in school. How can you focus on a test when you haven't eaten for hours?

People are beginning to recognize, too, that healthy food needs to be made available to those in inner cities. Urban gardens are "growing" (no pun intended!) and sometimes fresh produce is trucked in. Buying groceries at small convenience stores is expensive and offers little but processed foods.

Thank you all for reading and sharing your thoughts and experiences.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

Awesome hub; interesting and informative. I took the quiz and got the q. about urban vs rural incorrect. I enjoyed the interactive map you linked here. All in all truly one of the best hubs I've read in a while. I rated that little number at the top (+1) too.

I don't recall us using food stamps when we were younger. How interesting...how did you come to be aware of this? I can't imagine mom wanting any part of that program with her pride-esp not after growing up in poverty and using them.

I'm sharing it on my FB page.


Giselle Maine 5 years ago

Thanks for this great information. I was especially inspired by the things you put under "what can you do?" Although I already donate regularly to the local foodbank, I was thrilled to hear of other things I could do, in particular I liked the idea of organizing a food drive, and the idea of making emergency food boxes in case of disaster and giving one to a family in need.

The latter idea is especially helpful as it allows people to help a family in need without embarassing the family in need, because it is for 'disaster preparedness' so they are more likely to feel OK about receiving it.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Dee, that's funny how siblings can have such different memories. This is the 2nd one I wrote that you don't remember the same thing (but do you remember the 'chicken dance'? LOL). I was in the store with dad.

@Giselle - thanks for reading and commenting and most of all, kudos for being a regular donor to your local food bank. For most people, it's a seasonal thing.

@Conradofontanilla - unfortunately, hunger is everywhere and too often it is the people who suffer because of the inequities of the political systems. Thanks for reading


Giselle Maine 5 years ago

Danette, thanks for the nice feedback. I'm lucky that my grocery store makes it really easy to donate to the local foodbank. At the grocery checkout there are $1, $2, and $5 foodbank donation bar-codes that shoppers can pick up and pay for along with their groceries. The amount gets added on the grocery bill, and after the person pays then the grocery store sends on the donated amount to the foodbank.

I think it would be great if more grocery stores did this.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois Author

It would be an easy and convenient way to get people to donate.


poetvix profile image

poetvix 4 years ago from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country.

I see hungry children every day and it breaks my heart. Where I work we send home every Friday backpacks full of food with children we know for a fact won't eat over the weekend otherwise. Sadly, I know for every child we know of there are ten more we don't. Starving children all over America suffer in silence out of fear of ridicule by their peers and worse, by adults. I dearly love that you have listed so many ways to help. I only have one to add and it's one my husband does several times a week. In our area of Texas homelessness is growing. He, being too busy to sit down and eat lunch, will often do a fast food drive through bagged lunch and always buys and extra that he places directly in the hand of the first homeless person he sees along with a bottle of water. He has yet to drive a full mile to find one. That's how prevalent it's becoming. God bless you and thank you for raising awareness for an issue that gets swept under the rug way too often.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Poetvix - I love your husband's idea of helping one person at a time with a bag of food and bottle of water. What a great idea and I think I'll start doing the same. I just did an article for our local paper on the rise of poverty and school-aged children. Our school district just changed the application from one per student to one per family. The Asst. Super. said this increased slightly the number of lunches/breakfasts served and she thinks its because the older students (i.e, mid-high schoolers) were too embarrassed to get free meals before. Also, all students now have a card and PIN to use when they buy lunch/b'fast so no one knows who is "too poor" and gets it for free.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

We have a local community garden that uses public land to give community residents who don't have land an opportunity to grow their own food. In an arrangement with our local food bank, surplus fresh fruits and vegetable from the community garden are donated throughout the growing season. It's a great arrangement...the food bank knows the fresh produce is coming and makes sure families in need get these wonderful items at their peak of freshness.

"Hunger never takes a break." How true. I think what surprised me when I learned about this program in my community, an affluent community, is that even here there are folks in need. Hunger is all around you. It isn't defined by stereotypical notions of inner-city or rural poverty. Hunger can be just a house or two away.

Beautifully written article. Voted up, interesting, useful.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks Sally's Trove for reading and leaving such a thoughtful comment. It is a sad fact that the recent economic downturn left many middle class families looking to food pantries or food stamps for help, people who may never have had the need to before. Let's hope that people aren't too proud to get help, especially if there are kids involved.

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