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Help Food Banks Stay Stocked

by Beth Hering
The Challenge

Food banks keep underprivileged children from worrying at school whether or not there will be food on the table for dinner that night. Food banks prevent senior citizens from having to make the terrible choice between paying for medication or buying groceries. Food banks allow low-income families to get their heat turned back on in the winter because they did not have to spend as much of their limited income on food.

An estimated 49 million Americans are food insecure (meaning their access to enough food is limited by a lack of money and other resources), according to the USDA. Yet while so many people depend on food banks, organizations that help the hungry struggle to care for all in need. For instance, about 70 percent of the nearly 5,000 Meals on Wheels programs nationwide have waiting lists because of funding cuts and it is too expensive to deliver to all who need it. While needy senior citizens wait to be helped, their bodies become more susceptible to malnutrition and illness, which can further complicate their lives with the need for medical care that they cannot afford.

The good news is that you can make a difference today by helping out a food bank. Your commitment to feeding the hungry can be the factor that enables a family in your community to sit down together tonight for dinner—with enough food for all of them.

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Contact area restaurants to find out what they do with leftover food. If they are not already donating their perishable items, give them a copy of Feeding America's guide to restaurant donations. Let them know that if just 5% of the total food wasted each year could be recovered, 14 million hungry people could be fed.

Help your letter carriers to "Stamp out Hunger" by participating in and promoting their annual food collection drive. The event is conducted annually on the second Saturday in May in all 50 states. Households can simply leave their nonperishable goods inside of their mailbox, and the mailperson will collect them when delivering mail on that day. Besides stuffing your own mailbox, make fliers to distribute to neighbors, post reminder notices at local grocery stores, and ask local newspapers and community newsletters to publicize the event.

Sponsor a food drive to help collect items for a food bank. Contact a local chapter of Feeding America to get a list of their needs. Consider linking your food drive with a pleasant activity to encourage participation. Examples include: a library excusing a book fine for every item a person donates, a high school giving free admission to a basketball game for people contributing to a food bank, or a workplace allowing casual clothing on the day of the food drive for all food donors. The Feinstein Center for a Hunger Free America offers theme ideas for food drives.

Make a habit of looking for two-for-one deals during your shopping trips. Keep the extra items in a box to deliver once a month to a local food bank. Take your kids along with you when you go to a food bank to encourage lifelong concern for those in need.

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