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The face of hunger in your own backyard – Part I

This time of year children across the country are feverishly writing out their holiday wish lists in hopes that Santa will bring them everything that they want. Michael wants a LeapPad, Cindy wants a Furby, Meredith wants a Wii U and all that Olivia wants dinner tonight.

Wait! What? What child would wish for dinner? Surely all children are dreaming of the latest high tech gadgets and this seasons hottest toys?

Not all children. Some children couldn’t care less about iPhones, designer fashions and the “must have” gifts of the season. They simply want to know that they will be able to eat tonight. And perhaps tomorrow night, and hopefully the night after that.

According to Feeding America, last year over 50 MILLION Americans lived in food insecure households. That means that roughly 33+ million adults and almost 17 million children don’t know where there next meal is coming from. These were last year’s statistics. With the economy still in bad shape and constant layoffs (18,000+ people are getting laid off from Hostess), many families are finding it harder and harder to get by financially and they struggle to put food on the table for their families. NO ONE should have to go hungry, especially in this country. Case in point, The Securities and Exchange Commission spent $3.9 million rearranging desks and offices at its Washington, D.C., headquarters (no kidding!). WHY? That money could have been spend ensuring that no child goes to bed hungry in our country.

Google the ways our government WASTES money. It will make you lose your appetite (no pun intended).

Some people assume that child hunger is only prevalent in states where the poverty level is high. That is NOT the case at all. There are people who are not going to eat tonight, and possibly tomorrow, who live in your community – no matter how “well off” your area might be. That means your neighbor, a child’s classmate, a co-worker or even your best friend struggles to put ample food on the table for their family.

If would be foolish to say that you can tell if someone comes from a food insecure family. There is a stigma attached to being food insecure. Most people are embarrassed to admit it. They don’t want to be looked down upon, and others don’t want pitty. They just want people to understand and to help feed their family.

Even people with decent jobs can still struggle to fulfill their family’s basic needs. Taxes, debt, medical bills and unforeseen expenses can drastically alter a person’s income and how much they left over to go food shopping. My family is one transmission repair away from having no more money in savings (I drive a 17 year old car… I worry about that each and every day). A drastic cut in pay can really cause a lot of problems too. A few years ago my husband had to take a $20,000+ cut in pay or risk being laid off. Let me tell you, that was a great big OUCH!!!! We lived comfortably before then. After that huge hit we had to really “tighten our belts” to keep our “heads above water”.

If you are reading this and thinking that I am only drawing attention to hunger here in America because it’s the holiday season, think again. I want to each and every person who reads this post to understand that hunger in our country doesn’t stop once the last Christmas present is opened or the last ornament is removed from the tree. Hunger is something that millions of people face each and every day.

I do think it’s wonderful that people open their hearts during the holidays and make donations to their local food banks or other food related charities. Many grocery stores have donation boxes set up to collect non-perishable goods to feed people in the community.

All food banks will accept cereals, rice, crackers, canned tuna, condiments, soup, oatmeal and other canned goods and boxed foods. Did you know that many food banks will accept perishable items like fruits, vegetables and meats? Please check with your local food bank for a list of items they will accept.

If you own a grocery store, restaurant or deli consider donating your surplus foods (perishable and/or non-perishable). It’s much nicer to see the foods feed the hungry then rot in a landfill.

If you are shopping and can score a great “buy one, get one free” or similar promotion, consider donating the “free” item to your local food bank. Just recently I missed a sale for tomato sauce, 10 for $10.00. I certainly don’t need 10 jars of tomato sauce. I could have easily donated half of them. I’m still mad at myself for missing that sale.

Another thing you can do it pick up a few non-perishable items every time you go grocery shopping, then once a month donate the items. My family tries to do that whenever we can – both people and pet foods (we car about hungry pets too).

Of course monetary donations are always welcome too.

This time of the year a lot of people donate their time and volunteer at food banks and soup kitchens. I think that is commendable and a wonderful thing to do. If you are one of the special people who donate their time at local food banks and kitchens, would you consider donating your time year round? I’m not talking on a daily or even weekly basis. An hour or two a month would certainly be very much appreciated. Of course, if you can spare more time that would be great too. :-)

Back in October I helped out at a food bank in Tampa, Florida as part of a team from ConAgra Foods and Feeding America. Let me tell you it was a truly A-M-A-Z-I-N-G experience. It made my heart smile knowing that I helped to feed over 300+ families that day.

If you have a moment I would love it if you could read my story about my experience. You can find the post here, http://www.shescribes.com/2012/10/my-eye-opening-experience-at-a-mobile-food-bank.html.

Not only did I have the opportunity to help out at the food bank, but I also had a behind the scenes tour of the Feeding America Tampa Bay headquarters/warehouse along with the band Little Big Town. I am going to share my experience there in another post since this post is already very long. Look for “Part II” of this post tomorrow. :-)

If you would like to learn more about child hunger here in America please visit www.FeedingAmerica.org. They can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

You can also learn more about child hunger in our country at the Child Hunger Ends Here website, www.ChildHungerEndsHere.com. This is a special organization from ConAgra Foods that works hand-in-hand with Feeding America to stop child hunger in our country. You can follow along with their efforts on their Facebook page as well as on Twitter. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #ChildHunger.

Have you experienced times in your life when you were food insecure? Do you know anyone who is? Are you helping to feed hungry children and families your community? If so I would certainly LOVE to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts on this post.

Kimberly

*This post is part of the Child Hunger Ends Here campaign and I am being compensated for my participation, however all opinions expressed are entirely my own and are not influenced in any way. 

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About Kimberly

Kimberly Vetrano resides in the suburbs of New York City with her family, five cats, dog, a tank full of fish and snails. She is also a freelance writer and photographer.

Comments

  1. Jamie Wagner says:

    Well said, Kimberly. Even knowing of these issues, a reality check is sometimes needed. Any of us could be in a similar situation to those who are currently food insecure. All it takes is one unexpected large expense, change at a job. Thanks for taking the time to express your perspective. It is appreciated. I’m glad to get to work with you on this!

    Jamie Wagner
    ConAgra Foods
    Child Hunger Ends Here