by Aaron Earls
Hunger is often thought of as an “over there” problem—affecting people in developing countries. Yet, hunger is an all too real occurrence in the U.S.
Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, estimates 49 million Americans are food insecure, which means there is limited or uncertain access to enough food to support a healthy life.
Hunger is so widespread in the U.S., Feeding America is serving someone in need in every zip code in the country.
But for Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, hunger is even more than a national issue. It’s a local problem. They hope to change statistics like 1 in 4 children in the Volunteer state go to bed hungry.
“The face of hunger is one we might recognize,” says Jaynee Day CEO of Second Harvest. “Many of our neighbors who are seeking food assistance have jobs, raise families, work toward education, and struggle with health problems like all of us. Too often, our clients have to make difficult trade-offs to get enough food for their families.” Eighty percent of households served by Second Harvest report choosing between food and medical care or medicine in the past 12 months.
For churches looking to get involved with hunger, local food banks are an obvious first step. Second Harvest says roughly 50 percent of their partner agencies, those who help distribute meals and groceries to those in need, are churches or faith-based organizations.
“There is no right or wrong way for a church to serve a food bank’s mission to feed the hungry in their community—it’s all needed,” says Tracey Alderdice, directory of agency and program services at Second Harvest.
Elizabeth Bradbury, communications manager at Second Harvest, offers three specific ways churches or individuals can serve any local food bank.
1. Giving: Because of partnerships developed with food providers and other businesses, giving directly to food banks is often the most effective and efficient way to fight hunger in your local community. “For every $1 donated, Second Harvest can provide four meals to feed hungry people,” says Bradbury.
2. Host a food drive: Contact the food bank to see what they need most and plan a drive at your church. Assign various items to small groups for a competition, use a canned good as a “ticket” for an upcoming event, or ask every member to bring something on a special Sunday.
3. Volunteer: It takes work to handle the donation and delivery of food. Bradbury says Second Harvest needs volunteers every day. Individuals or groups can help with sorting or packing food donations, preparing backpacks to be given to hungry children, working a special event, or even administrative support.
With 1 in 7 Americans dealing with hunger that gives the other six of us an opportunity to help, says Bradbury. “Whether it’s donating a can of food, an hour of time, or a dollar, every little bit makes a difference to a neighbor in need.”
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.