The last blog introduced the recent surge in the overwhelming demand on food banks. This blog briefly explores the different types of food-assistance agencies. It is important to know that each of us can do something to alleviate suffering.
There are a variety of ways food gets to hungry people in the United States. Soup kitchens and hunger centers are places where anyone who is hungry can get a hot meal. Usually, these agencies offer a warm and friendly place to eat with others. Some of the same organizations also offer a pantry, where people can select canned goods and other food items to take home. There are also large organizations—food banks—warehouses that supply the food that hunger centers, soup kitchens, and other agencies provide. The supply comes from donations from farms, food production industries, and restaurants, as well as monetary contributions.
Today’s food banks have outreach services that help people. Education, grass-roots activism, food harvesting, and networking with business, community, and government agencies are just some of their far-reaching work.
Reading about the diverse aspects of your local foodbank is one way to appreciate all that they do. Many are linked nationally, which allow them to offer resources, information, and suggestions for how communities help change lives. Foodbanks also offer a variety of volunteer opportunities—in fact, they rely on hundreds of volunteers who sort, repack, prepare, cook, and dispense the food distributed through foodbanks. Though food insecurity1 is daunting, food banks show us that we can make a big difference, not only by volunteering, but also by the daily choices we make in our own lives.
Explore these websites and share what you learn with your family and friends. While no doubt difficult and out-of-the-ordinary, recent holidays were an opportunity to focus on what is important to us. Perhaps this new year is a perfect time to learn about and join others who have put principles into practice.
1food insecurity— “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.” Hunger is defined by USDA as “an individual-level physiological condition that may result from food insecurity.” https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/definitions-of-food-security.aspx
Make sure to check out each site’s “About us” or “Who we are” section; it provides insightful background information.
- Feeding America (many food banks around the country are part of this network)
- The Spruce Eats (a list of organizations that fight hunger around the world)
- The World Counts (provides facts, per second, related to people and poverty, among many other categories)
- Tech Crunch (startup app that informs neighbors about local food you’re willing to donate—it’s in the UK, but perhaps one will be created in US; even so, it’s an interesting concept that takes eliminating food waste to a whole new level. The company helps businesses divest of perfectly good food that they won’t use by sending volunteers to collect and then disperse it.)
Ask your students to complete this handout for reflection and discussion. This can be done either at home, with friends, or with classmates.