The numbers are staggering, and the people affected by hunger are living within our communities. Of the 37 million Americans, 14 million are children.
These people affected by hunger are men, women and children in suburban America, rural America and even in big cities on every coast. Depending on which study you acknowledge, 1 in 7 or 1 in 8 Americans is desperately in need of supplemental food for their diet – just to survive. Either way, the statistics are frightening. As a point of fact, Feeding America is now feeding 46 percent more Americans each week than in 2006. Just five years in this troubling economy, and our nation’s hunger problem has almost doubled.
The most eye-opening statistic from the study: these hungry households include one working adult. Anyone who has seen their monthly grocery bills escalate this past year might understand how a regular paycheck just doesn’t stretch as far as it once did. Eating healthy requires effort and income.
Those hungry people are our neighbors. Those are our colleagues. These are people whose children ride the same school bus or play on the same community playgrounds with our own children. And they have to choose between paying for food or rent, medical care and utilities every day. And the sad thing is, their personal pride may not be able to ask for it without fearing humiliation or reprise.
So. What is the solution, you ask? Share. And I don’t mean just share the food. That would be nice, but it isn’t always that easy if your family is tight on budget as well. But you can share your knowledge. You can share your talents. You can share your culinary skills.
How, you ask? Consider these four simple ways:
- Garden — If you are a gardener, share your bumper crops. Too much basil? Too many tomatoes to consume or can? Too many zucchini to ever know what to do with? Please don’t let these valuable food products go to waste – ever. Do not send them to the compost bin. Pile all the extra vegetables and herbs in a box – like those I saw graciously offered by a kind gardener on a table at the Hungry Tummy in Beulah, MI – and label them FREE. Make this offer at a local gas station, mailbox store or other shop. By the end of an evening your bounty will be gone, guaranteed. And you can rest easy that some hungry people in your neighborhood will be nutritiously fed — because of you.
- Clean — Sounds simple? Well, it is. Four times a year (monthly if you’re willing), clean out your pantry. Choose the first day of every season. Evaluate the foods you have purchased and stored. Determine which items you’d be willing to part with to help satisfy the hungry belly of one of your community neighbors. I promise you – this effort will not be a sacrifice. At times, we all are guilty of purchasing too many products for one family to consume. Let’s not let these foods go to waste by expiration.
- Coupon — With coupons, some grocery and pharmacy shops offer items for 1 cent, or even better, for free. For the clever couponer, items with double and even triple coupons can be purchased in bulk for little to no money. Please use your incredible organizational skills to benefit your family and other families near you. If you can’t use the items you score at such phenomenal bargains, please use your finds to help supplement your local food banks. Your efforts will be sincerely appreciated.
- Bake One, Share One – Every time you bake, double up the recipe. While the baked goods are still warm, drop by your local church, shelter or nursing home and share. If they can’t use your baked goods right away, they’ll freeze the items to distribute to the needy later.
Feeding the 37 million Americans who go hungry every single day begins with a single step from each of us. And it’s a simple 1-2-3-4 proposition: garden, clean, coupon or bake-one, share-one.
Please share this post with everyone in your e-mail address book and together we can make a difference at every dinner table right here in America . . . right now.
For more information on the country’s most recent hunger statistics, please visit Feeding America’s website. And please take action . . . no matter how small it might be. Our efforts have a ripple effect, and the biggest changes all start with a single gesture.