One in eight people in the United States faces hunger, according to a recent report by the United States Department of Agriculture. Michael Guerra has seen the reality of that up close, nearly every day of the last 14 years he’s worked at the San Antonio Food Bank. He sees veterans in need, senior citizens and the working poor.
Helping solve the issue of hunger can come down to making a difference, one person at time. It takes people willing to get involved. And sometimes, he said, it can transform not only the life of the person in need, but those who are giving of themselves.
“It changes your heart when you enter a privileged space to help the individuals and community shine. Givers are transformed through humility and the gratitude of receivers in their time of need,” he said. “There’s a level of compassion and empathy when you walk with people in their shoes. It opens you to embracing them instead of hardening you, to connect with the greater humanity.”
During Hunger Action Month, we asked Guerra and others making a difference what people can do every day to help solve hunger:
- Ask friends to donate food for a food bank instead of giving you a birthday or wedding gift. (FeedingAmerica.org/fundraise offers online tools to help.)
- Each time you go to the grocery stores, buy one or two extra food items to donate.
- Visit area restaurants and businesses and ask if you can take their unsold food to food banks. Arnold Stalk, founder of Veterans Village calls this his “bagel theory.” After he asked a Las Vegas bagel store for their leftover bagels, he was able to donate more than 5,000 bagels a year to those in need. (More than 10 million meals have been donated through Starbucks FoodShare program since 2016.)
- Reach out to your government representative in Congress or the Senate and urge them to support nutritional programs for those in need, suggests Feeding America’s president Matt Knott.
- Volunteer at your local food bank. (Go to FeedingAmerica.org to find one near you.)
- Organize a food drive. If you don’t know how, your local food bank can offer suggestions, said Guerra.
- Use your Facebook page (or other social media) to host a personal fundraiser to benefit the hungry.
- Add a row in your garden and designate those vegetables to be donated.
- Start a donation jar where you and other family members can drop extra change. When it’s full, cash it in and donate it to your local food bank.
- Create empathy among the next generation by reading books to your children about the complexities of other people’s lives, such as “Maddi’s Fridge,” by Lois Brandt, “Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen,” but DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan and “One Potato, Two Potato,” by Cynthia DeFelice.
- Host a dinner with friends and family and ask them to bring food to donate.