The numbers are terrifying: 1 in 6 people in the U.S. face hunger, including more than 1 in 5 children, according to Feeding America. Almost 50 million people are facing hunger today. September is Hunger Action Month so you can get involved and help. With these numbers sadly growing, we all need to realize our potential for helping to decrease, rather than increase, these numbers. There are plenty of ways you can help as well as raise awareness as to how many people — people you possibly even know — are hungry. Even working people are hungry. Most of us get cranky when we need to eat, but what if you skipped more than just one meal? What if you went days without eating, and it was not because you were too busy or too exhausted to eat? What if you did not eat because you simply could not afford gas in your car and groceries? What if you had to choose between medicine or groceries... which would you choose? Many Americans are facing this very dilemma today, even as you read this article.
So how can you help? For one thing, learn the facts. Spread the word and get your friends, family, co-workers involved. There are so many ways you can help. Here are eight, easy ideas.
The next time you have a football party, a cookout or even a dinner party, ask your guests to bring nonperishable food items. Take those items to your local food bank and learn how your donations can help, right in your own community. Consider doing the same for your birthday and holiday parties. On the invitation write, "in place of gifts, please bring donations for our local food bank."
Ask friends and co-workers to pitch in and bake their favorite cookies or cupcakes, brownies or cakes. If everyone knows that every dollar raised will be given directly to a local food bank, a $3 cake mix suddenly might be "worth" $25. Oftentimes, larger companies will "match" donations, so maybe your company or a company you work with would consider doing this.
Even if you are living on a budget, you can still help. When your grocery store offers buy-one-get-one-free items, stock up! Grab a large box and start filling it with items you purchase on sale. Place one item in your pantry and place the other item in a box to donate. When the box is full, deliver it to a local food bank, and start on your next box. Items like oatmeal, pasta, peanut butter, pasta sauce, cereal, coffee, tea — they all go on sale, and you might be surprised how quickly and how often you can fill a donation box, even on a budget. Use your coupons and shop these sale items to take advantage of lower prices to fill your box!
Instill in your children the importance of giving and fighting hunger at an early age. Make it a fun game for the entire school, and maybe the class with the most donations could have an ice cream party. (If you know that there are families struggling in your child's class, send in a few extra items with your child to help that child, so no one feels left out!) When the children see the donations coming in, they feel good about themselves and know that they are helping to make a difference!
Sometimes all we need is a visual to truly make an impact. When you set your dinner table, many food groups suggest that an empty plate at your table represents those in hunger. It is also an opportunity to talk to your family about ideas they might have to help in your community.
So many generous efforts are made during the holidays, but why wait until then? Talk to your child's guidance counselor and ask if there is a family in need. You can send gift cards to local grocery stores to the guidance counselor, and he/she can distribute them to families in need. You can also purchase Thanksgiving/Christmas meals at local grocery stores and have the family pick up their meal at the store. If you personally know of a family struggling, you can "adopt" them, and even do so anonymously. To not embarrass the family, consider leaving a donation on their doorstep at night, or leave gift cards in their mailbox.
Contact your local food bank and ask how you can help. In addition to monetary and food donations, they need able-bodied volunteers who can help them. One visit to a food bank will leave a lasting impression of just how much is not only needed but how much can be done. Spread the word, and grab a group of friends and ask them to help you!
Imagine yourself working on a deadline for your boss, but doing it with no coffee, no breakfast, no lunch and no dinner the night before. Envision sending your child to school for a big test, but with no dinner the night before, no breakfast and no lunch packed. It is almost impossible to perform at our best when we are hungry. The physical reminder of our own hunger places us in their shoes, which can in turn motivate us to take action and help!
Together, we can all fight hunger, and raise awareness. No matter your income or work schedule, we can all make a difference. Hunger does not discriminate. Spread the word, learn the facts, help educate those around you, and we can all fight hunger, not just in September, but every day.
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