I never understood hunger until I spent a Thanksgiving volunteering with my husband and then, infant daughter (strapped to me in my Baby Hawk), at a family shelter. The shelter kept families who were homeless together and gave them a home. We cooked food.
We served it and went home.
I often wonder: what do those families eat when it is not Thanksgiving?
The answer: probably not much.
My children have never been hungry. My pantry is full. My garden is bursting.
However, one in six Americans needs food assistance. One in five American school children go to school hungry,
It is the deepest of tragedies in a nation where food is wasted on a daily basis. No one should ever go to bed hungry, no child should ever go to school on an empty stomach. The ramifications of hungry people go beyond a rumbling stomach and malnutrition. Hunger makes it impossible to function and impossible to learn.
With millions who are hungry, the problem can seem insurmountable. But, there is something you can do–here are three innovative charities that you can support with the help of your children and share the harvest, all year round.
Ample Harvest is a national non-profit that connects backyard gardeners with food pantries. The idea is simple: excess garden produce (think of all those zucchinis and that towering basil or that enormous apple tree) is donated to local food pantries who have proper facilities to accept fresh foods. Then the fresh, nutritious produce is placed into the hands of those who are hungry.
You can donate anything, in any quantity. Imagine what a difference a spring of fresh cilantro could make to your meal or what one tomato could do. My girls and I often drop off excess produce at our local pantry. It is a great way to teach them that the Earth’s bounty belongs to everyone.
Ample Harvest has a nationwide directory of food pantries that accept donations of fresh produce. Many listings include days and times for drop off (so you know your fresh produce is fresh when it is distributed).
Share our Strength, a national nonprofit committed to ending hunger, is working to make sure no child goes to school hungry. Hungry kids can’t learn. And one in five children goes to school hungry. These children cannot concentrate, suffer from headaches and stomach aches and as result have poor academic performance. More than half of the teachers that Share our Strength surveyed said they purchase food for hungry kids in the classroom; many at least once a week.
There are food pantries and larger food banks in every town in the United States. Many churches maintain food pantries. And larger food banks, such as the Food Bank of South Jersey, work to supply local pantries with adequate food supplies. Last year, pantries across the Philadelphia region suffered serious shortages–which means people in your community were going hungry. It is easy to help: find your local food pantry through the link above or through Ample Harvest’s database and make a donation of food or other supplies. Many pantries report a need for pantry staples: salt, pepper, sugar and flour as well as other meal makers beyond the enormous amounts of canned vegetables that are donated. Contact your local pantry and find out what they need. Clean out your own pantry and find staples that you might not need. Take advantage of sales or coupons to buy extra at the grocery store. Then, get your kids and go make the donation together.
It is a small action with enormous consequences: no more hunger.
Trish Adkins writes at her personal memoir blog Yoke. Her writing has also appeared in Woman’s Day Magazine, South Jersey Biz, Outpost magazine, Patch.com and other publications. She is also a regular contributor to MetroKids MomSpeak column. She is a Hero Ambassador for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer and a professional volunteer and fundraiser for numerous local charities including The Preeclampsia Foundation annual Promise Walk, Friends of Jaclyn Foundation and Shadow Equestrian.