Tuesday, December 3, 2013

#GivingTuesday - America's Food Crisis

We are in the full swing of the holiday season and for many, that means time with family around a table piled high with food - gluttonous amounts of food.  What if you didn't have the means to put that food on the table?  What if it was a choice between feeding your children or keeping the heat going to keep them from freezing?  For a growing number of families right here in America, its a huge problem.  
How many frustrated moms and dads have told their picky eaters that there are starving children in Africa who would love to have that broccoli for dinner?  
Have you ever told them there are children at their school, in their class - maybe even a good friend - who go home every night and count the hours until they get the school-provided breakfast and lunch because it is all they get to eat for the day?  Have you ever told them there are children they know whose only food for the weekend is a backpack full of ready-to-consume snacks and foods provided by the local food bank that they share with their siblings and parents?

Right now, 1 in 6 Americans face hunger.
A mortifying 1 in 5 American children face hunger.
Empty Bowls fundraiser for hunger.
My step-dad has been the director of local food banks providing food to shelters, soup kitchens and families for over 25 years.  I have spent a lot of hours donating my time as a child and adult hosting food drives, stuffing mailers, decorating for fundraiser events, attending fundraisers, putting out the rally cry to my friends and contacts to donate, and salvaging food when grocery stores lose power.

If you ever want to see how your local economy is really doing - volunteer to help at a local food pantry where boxes of food basics are given out to folks in need.  See the faces there.  If you volunteer in your community, chances are you will see faces you recognize.  And you will be surprised at the diversity you see in that crowd - diversity in race, diversity in age, diversity in social status.  People in this country who never needed help before are losing jobs, losing insurance, losing their houses - losing their ability to feed themselves and their families.  
Map the Meal Gap
Use this interactive map to find more information about food insecurity and resources in your own community.
Growing up around farming, we didn't always have money but we always had something to eat.  We had gardens, harvested edibles like blackberries and mulberries from the woods, hunted and fished, canned and froze, made deals with neighbors to trade our excess for items we didn't grow.
School kids learn how to prepare a simple meal.
But teaching those skills was a dying tradition and many of my classmates graduated high school with barely an idea of how to put a meal on the table without a box of Hamburger Helper.  Now, there is a resurgence in wanting to learn those skills and the term sustainability has become an everyday term.  But for many, right now is when they need that food and they don't have the resources or skills to get it.
The first thing people often think of when supporting a food bank is to donate canned goods and basics like rice, potatoes and beans.  Did you know that many of those who need those foods don't have access to a stove, a can opener, a pot and pan, a microwave, or running water.  Rendering those products useless for sending home in boxes of supplies at food pantries or for backpacks.  
The children who get the backpacks often don't have proper supervision at home to cook for them so they need canned goods with pop-tabs so they can open it without a can opener and ready-to-consume products like crackers, cereal bars and tuna lunch kits.  
Can you imagine your child sitting in class all day with a rumbling tummy wondering when and where their next meal will come from?
photo credit: Walmart Corporate via photopin cc

Did you know, that food banks work with suppliers to bargain for additional buying power they can leverage to purchase items they need to supplement the donations they get at a much cheaper rate than you and I?  For each $1 you donate, 9 meals can be provided!  

So while you are considering your holiday giving and the blessings you share around the table, please consider making a donation, big or small, to Feeding America.  Feeding America is one of the top-rated charities with 97% of your donation going directly to programs.  They have created a network of food banks and supplies to make the best use of available resources to stretch each dollar to the max.  Your donation is tax deductible and the website is secure.
Feeding America also one of the biggest advocates for hunger resources in the country.  They need your help in educating legislators on the importance of hunger in America to secure legislation and funding for programs to solve the growing crisis.  Its easy to sign up for their email alerts and takes just a couple simple steps right on the website to let your legislators know how important this issue is to you.
World Homeless Day
Hunger is an issue year-round and you can help with just a small donation that will go a long way.
So this holiday season, give thanks and give food!

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