Here I am, writing about food, when so many have so little. Inspired by my friend Heidi's commitment to providing nutritional lunches to disadvantaged children, I feel compelled to do something positive toward alleviating hunger. The cost of wheat, rice and milk are going through the roof. Gas prices are forcing food distributors and manufacturers to increase their prices dramatically across the board. Traveling back and forth to work is costing more than ever. Combined with a job loss, the effects of the current economic downturn and the cost of fuel on a family can be truly devastating. Add the high cost of health care and you have a nightmare. Hunger is also a serious concern for many elderly people with fixed incomes and limited mobility. What can be done?
My parish has an ongoing food drive 12 months of the year. They understand that hunger knows no season. We tend to help during the winter holidays, forgetting that people are hungry during the rest of the year. We're encouraged to bring canned and jarred goods, as well as rice, pasta, cereal and other essential non-perishables on a regular basis. If every parishioner brought a canned good or a jar of peanut butter every week, it would go a long way in helping those in need. If your church, temple or employer does not have a food drive, perhaps you can set things in motion. Not sure how or where to begin?
Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the United States, feeds over 25 million Americans each year. Approximately 80 percent of all food banks in the U.S. are part of the Feeding America Member Network. They need donations of funds and food, as well as volunteers. They can direct you in how to hold a food drive in your neighborhood, place of worship, organization, or with your employer. They also have a list of food banks and emergency food providers in your area. Visit them online at www.feedingamerica.org.
One of the organizations within Second Harvest's network is the Greater Chicago Food Depository. They distribute more than 41,000,000 pounds of food annually through qualified agencies to feed hungry people in Chicago. They also need funds, food, and volunteers and can help you organize a local food drive. Those in the Chicago area can go to http://www.chicagosfoodbank.org/.
Chefs for Humanity is an alliance of culinary professionals and educators working in partnership with U.S. and global organizations, providing nutrition education, hunger relief, and emergency and humanitarian aid to reduce hunger across the world. Founded by renowned chef Cat Cora, Chefs for Humanity directly manages programs and partners with world organizations to care for people who have been affected by natural disasters, war and drought. They can be found online at http://www.chefsforhumanity.com/
Share our Strength ® is a national organization that works to make sure no child in America grows up hungry. They partner with the culinary industry to create fund-raising programs such as Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation® and Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale®. Award-winning chef-restaurateur, cookbook author, and television personality Rick Bayless is one the organization's most ardent supporters.
According to share our Strength , "More than 12.6 million (one in six!) children in America are at risk of hunger. These children will endure lifelong consequences as a result of having limited access to nutritious foods. In fact, they’re more likely to suffer poorer health, fatigue, hospitalizations, behavioral difficulties and impaired performance at school. Despite the good efforts of governments, private-sector institutions and everyday Americans, millions of our children still don’t have daily access to the nutritious meals they need to live active, healthy lives." To help further Share our Strength's mission to end childhood hunger in America, go to http://www.shareourstrength.org/.
Finally, a person or family without groceries may be closer than you imagine - it could be a neighbor, a fellow church member, a relative, or a co-worker. According to America's Second Harvest, 36% of the 25 million people they serve live in a household where someone works. Some families have to make difficult choices whether to pay the rent, make a car payment, buy prescription medicine, or buy groceries. In fact, more and more families are facing hunger for the first time. If you know of someone who has lost a job or been devastated by a health care or other crisis, lend a hand. An anonymous note with a $25 gift card toward a purchase at a local supermarket will bring relief for someone in need, and you will sleep better - I promise.