Hunger is the new Black!

It seems that when I make an assumption there is always someone who will gladly point out that I am wrong, and that’s cool, I never said I know everything, how could I? That said there is a pretty good chance that if you are a regular reader of this blog or a user of sites like Twitter that chances are food insecurity is not an issue you have intimate knowledge of, of course there are always exceptions but by and large social media users trend towards folks who most of the time are successful in robbing Peter to pay Paul and making miracles happen in the form of three square meals a day. For most of us our social circle be it online or offline is comprised of folks who are a lot like us, in other words if we are making the bills and eating and maybe even having fun, chances are we surround ourselves with like-minded souls.
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The downside though to hanging out with like-minded folks is that if everyone in our personal circle is living just fine, despite the almost daily rumblings about how bad the economy is, many of us have no up-close and personal knowledge. So it’s easy to become immune to the cold hard fact that millions are struggling, I am not talking struggling to pay Visa, I am talking struggling to keep a roof over their heads and struggling to eat. In some cases they are losing that battle and have fallen into plain old hard times, and are even skimping on food, allowing their kids to eat but eating less themselves or rationing food all around.
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Those of us in the business of supplying basic needs to people who need help have steadily seem our caseloads rise, at my local food pantry that I partner with, for well over 2 years now they have seen record numbers of folks in need of food. I have been saying for over a year now that food pantries are hurting, but only now is that message hitting the main stream media. Most food pantries simply are out of food, last week I had to tell a woman who was referred to me that I had no way to help her.
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The after-school program, my center runs is overrun with hungry kids. Once upon a time the local food pantry was able to supply us with snacks to keep our food cost down, last year they stopped being able to consistently do that and as a result my food budget was busted one month onto our fiscal year. We often are forced to ration snacks to kids; we estimate at least twenty percent of our kids are going home to nothing…hard times with no light at the end of the tunnel.
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Here in the state of Maine, food insecurity is getting heavy coverage as local food pantries have reached the end of their ropes as former donors have now become clients. While I am talking about what I am seeing in Maine, the story is the same across the United States. This piece in today’s NY Times, highlights this as it talks about the number of kids receiving free and reduced lunches in the schools across the US is at a record high. Families that receive SNAP benefits qualify for free lunch; many may wonder why if a family is getting SNAP benefits can’t they pack a lunch for their kids? Well not everyone who receives SNAP benefits gets a full benefit amount, if you have income but are still low income your award may only be $100 a month. A dear friend of mine is experiencing this now, that $100 helps but let’s be real you can’t feed an adult and multiple kids off of $100 a month! So programs like free and reduced lunch are vital.
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Dear readers, I am asking in this season of giving, if you have the means consider making a donation to your local food bank or pantry. Rather than tell you where to give, this link can help you find the place closest to you, a small donation can often go a long way. While your old canned soup is good, frankly these folks need your money. Consider becoming a monthly supporter, even a $5 a month donation can mean a lot to agencies that supply folks with food.
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PS: If you know a local food pantry in your area consider giving directly to them, they will be helping your neighbors. But for my tech savvy folks, understand that many small agencies are small and woefully understaffed so often you may have to give the old fashioned way, a check via snail mail. Most of us in small agencies don’t have the capacity to deal with electronic giving, in the town I work in the local food pantry is staffed completely with volunteers.

6 thoughts on “Hunger is the new Black!

  1. I think a lot of people don’t realize how easy it is to help food pantries. I tried Spotify Premium for a month, but then I decided to live without it and send that 9.99 to the local food pantry. Done.

    Government is in the way, of course, what with shutting down local food shares and forbidding all sorts of means of donations. Still, there are ways to circumvent this. I wish it were easier to give fresh and prepared foods, as I like to take advantage of food donations to share things that are healthier than the usual shelf-stable fare. Canned corn is better than nothing if you’re starving, though.

    • In York County we have the Food Rescue that takes any edible food and distributes it to smaller food pantries and programs like mine. Not sure if food rescues exist all over but they should. I will say that I rarely turn down any food donations at the center, unless its during the summer when we are running of federal dollars which means I have all sorts of rules & regs I have to follow regarding food.

  2. I’m conflicted about doing it, but I’ve taken to giving some of our breakfast food to a couple of the kids who hang around outside our door in the morning. Not every day, but when it makes sense (extra tangerines, cinnamon rolls, etc.). One of them has always been really, really vocal about his curiosity about what we’re eating. What put me over the edge into realizing he and his cousins were probably actually hungry, not just super curious about our food was when he was so in my face about how much he liked tunafish (my daughters and I were having a picnic outside the building) and he wanted the stuff Althea didn’t want and it was all toddler spit-filled and he didn’t care. I didn’t give it to him because it just seemed too gross and, frankly, sad, but I did start paying more attention and taking things more seriously.

    Lots of education going on around here… I’ve never felt like such a glutton as I do where I live now. Instead of hiding it or being ashamed, though, I’m focusing on gratitude and being honest and figuring out where I can reasonably be generous. (Having the kids over for dinner a couple of them at a time once a month or so is something we’ve started, too, but that wasn’t about food, but about knowing our neighbors. Now it’s also about food.)

    Thanks for the post.

    • I see that behavior all the time at the center. It’s hard for people to realize unless you see it that for all the talk of prosperity in this country, how so many truly struggle.

      Clearly you have to watch out for your own family, but if and when you are able to, definitely share food with them. Kids like that need adults in their lives no matter how they are connected, to assist them.

  3. This is such an important topic that unfortunately comes up mostly during the holidays. As someone who founded a soup kitchen/community meal 20 years ago..our neighbors are hungry year round. Thanks for providing a link to find the closest place to us to give. Everybody Eats in DC is planning on opening a community cafe similar to the one Jon Bon Jovi opened in the fall where people can pay as they are able and get nutritious food in a restaurant setting. http://pitchforksoptional.com/2011/12/06/a-community-cafe-may-reduce-food-insecurity-in-d-c/

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