1 in 8 people in the United States don’t have enough to eat. While that number can seem overwhelming, even small acts can make a big difference. Here’s what you can do.
Anna McCuistion has experienced the full circle of a food bank, first as a volunteer who helped raise money to keep the shelves stocked and, more recently, after a leukemia diagnosis, as a client.
“There are a lot of people like me,” said McCuistion, 61, who lives on a fixed income. “When I go grocery shopping, the money doesn’t go very far. And sometimes I have to buy medication.”
One in eight people in the United States faces hunger, according to Feeding America. When it comes to children, one in six doesn’t know where they will get their next meal. The need can be heightened during the summer, when classes are out and kids lose access to free or reduced meals at school.
When it comes to making a difference, even small acts can have a big impact – whether it’s donating food or volunteering a skill, said Rudy Valencia, director of operations at the Second Harvest Food Bank, serving San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties in California.
“We always tell people if they have a talent they can share, whether it’s data entry, social media or anything, please get involved,” he said. “Every little bit makes a difference.”
Valencia and others working toward ending hunger offered these tips on simple things people can do in their daily lives to help:
- When you are at the grocery store, buy a few extra items to be donated.
- Plant an extra row in your garden and designate those vegetables to be donated.
- Food banks can often make cash stretch. Consider donating even a small amount like $5 a month.
- If your child brings lunch to school, pack a little extra that could be shared with a child in need. “Sometimes kids won’t admit to not having any food,” said Jay Simmonds, assistant superintendent at the Ceres Unified School District in Ceres, California.
- Support businesses that give back to food banks. Second Harvest lists a number here, and
- 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.)
- Remember that food banks don’t just serve adults and older kids. Baby food, baby wipes, diapers and formula are needed too.
- 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 15 million meals have been donated through Starbucks FoodShare program since 2016.)
- For special events, give the gift of nourishing food to someone in need. Feeding America makes it easy with their gift catalog.
- 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 your time and skills to 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.
- Use your Facebook page (or other social media) to host a personal fundraiser to benefit the hungry.
- 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.