With one in six Americans living at risk of hunger, our food banks are stretched thin and providing food assistance to nearly six million people each week. Food donations are crucial to our goal of a hunger-free America. ~ Bob Aiken, President and CEO of Feeding America.
The statistics are staggering. From Feeding America, some facts on food insecurity and very low food security:
• In 2011, 50.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33.5 million adults and 16.7 million children.
• In 2011, 14.9 percent of households (17.9 million households) were food insecure.
• In 2011, 5.7 percent of households (6.8 million households) experienced very low food security.
• In 2011, households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 20.6 percent compared to 12.2percent.
• In 2011, households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (20.6 percent), especially households with children headed by single women (36.8 percent) or single men (24.9 percent), Black non-Hispanic households (25.1 percent) and Hispanic households (26.2 percent).
• In 2011, 8.8 percent of seniors living alone (1 million households) were food insecure.
• Food insecurity exists in every county in America, ranging from a low of 5 percent in Steele County, ND to a high of 37 percent in Holmes County, MS.v
• In 2011, 5.1 percent of all U.S. households (6.1 million households) accessed emergency food from a food pantry one or more times. vii
• In 2011, 57.2 percent of food-insecure households participated in at least one of the three major Federal food assistance programs -Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamp Program), The National School Lunch Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. viii
• Feeding America provides emergency food assistance to an estimated 37 million low-income people annually, a 46 percent increase from 25 million since Hunger in America 2006. ix
• Among members of Feeding America, 74 percent of pantries, 65 percent of kitchens, and 54 percent of shelters reported that there had been an increase since 2006 in the number of clients who come to their emergency food program sites.x
References are provided at the link; bolding emphasis mine.
Maybe you received a postcard the other day, as we did. It’s a notice and reminder of the annual food drive by the National Association of Letter Carriers. Today’s Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive aims to benefit community food pantries, struggling to aid their neighbors with food security. Items donated in food drives add quantity and variety to food pantry shelves, and they are very welcome.
From the postcard:
Donate items like canned meats, fish, soup, juice, vegetables, pasta, cereal, and rice. Please do not include items that have expired or are in glass containers.
Other benefits of food drives, beyond simply providing food, are raising awareness and creating an opportunity for giving. Awareness of the need must come first, and Stamp Out Hunger helps distribute the message of need.
Food pantries also may receive donations from local groceries, restaurants, distributors, and food manufacturers. In addition, they might belong to a larger network that provides food, some of it with government assistance. Some of the network food is provided free to the food pantries, and the rest is at substantial discounts from retail prices.
My nearest food bank is the North Liberty Community Pantry. They belong to a regional organization called HACAP, which in turn is a member of the national organization Feeding America. We are fortunate to have well-stocked shelves, thanks to generous donations and the network membership.
From the North Liberty Community Pantry website:
The Pantry purchases about two thirds the food distributed. Cash donations are a wonderful way to buy a lot of food for very little money. Most of the purchased food is bought from a food reservoir for as little as a dollar or two for a case of food, so donated dollars really help. These are examples of what your money can buy for the pantry:
Look at the photos again. Note that you can buy a food item and donate it, or you can donate money, allowing purchase of several times as much food. Your direct donations of food are important, as stated above. But the bang for buck comes from quantity purchases.
The pantry purchases about two-thirds of the food distributed. About a third is donated, including from corporate donations. Drives like Stamp Out Hunger also play an important role.
Please help stamp out hunger, by donations of food in drives like today’s, by donations of money to your local (or other) food agencies, and by reminding your members of Congress that hunger in America is unacceptable.