Hunger is Just Around the Corner
Everyone loves the gift of food. Your favorite tea, spice, or jam is always a welcome surprise. This time of year more than any think about giving food to your local food pantry. The problem of food insecurity is nationwide and found in every community. One in seven Americans struggle with hunger affecting children and the elderly the most.
I live in Northern Virginia, a great place that can be described as an affluent community. Prince William County was ranked as the 20th wealthiest county in the county recently. The average median household income was listed as $92,104 in 2014. Yet within 20 miles of me are 2 food banks and 4 food pantries feeding thousands of clients a month. House of Mercy in Gainesville estimates there are nearly 15,000 food insecure children at risk in our county. Elderly notoriously skimp on food because of high living and medication costs.
This time of the year, far removed from the giving season of Christmas, food banks and pantries really need help. Summer is when donations drop to the lowest point. This is truly an out-of-sight out-of-mind problem. Sadly, in this raucous election year we have heard nothing about the 48 million Americans living below the poverty line or the millions of children who go to bed or school each morning hungry. The small faith based food pantry House of Mercy near me provided food assistance to 7,704 people in 2014. Just over half their clients are Hispanic and 86% were women.
It’s easy to get involved. The first step is to call your local food pantry and find out what they need and don’t need. Learn their hours and when you can donate. Many parties are only open a few days a week for distribution to their clients. See if they have drop off points with other area organizations like churches or fire stations. Consider volunteering even if it’s just an hour or two a week. Food banks and pantries are non-profits and operated with mostly volunteers. Contemplate putting together a food drive at your church, school, or work. Ask the manager at your local grocery store if they donate excess food to the local food bank.
Here are tips on donating food.
- I’m sure you make wonderful cakes, pies, and cookies but food banks can’t take home-baked goods
- Items past their expiration date you drag out from the back of your pantry will be discarded by the food bank
- Most food banks will take donations of frozen meats
- Try to donate low-sodium and low-sugar healthy foods
- Items with a long shelf life like canned vegetables, rice, and pasta
- Donate seasonal foods like pumpkin pie ingredients, turkeys, or hams around the holidays
- Your plastic grocery bags
- Toilet paper and personal hygiene products
- Baby food
- Condiments and cooking spices
What food banks and pantries need most is money. Besides paying staff, rent, and utilities, food pantries often buy items in bulk when they run low. Donating $10 in food may provide enough for 4 meals but that same $10 pooled with other donations to purchase wholesale can turn into 15 meals.
The best part of donating to a local food bank or pantry is knowing your donation will help someone in your community. Maybe even your neighbor.