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Hunger in America Hunger in America

How you can help relieve hunger in your community

How you can help relieve hunger in your community

In the United States, 42 million people suffer from hunger, including 13 million children and 5.7 million seniors. Food insecurity occurs within every county in the country, according to Feeding America®.

With so much need, and some of it happening right in your own community, you may be wondering how you can help. There are many ways, through gestures both small and large, to make a difference.

Donate to Feeding America®. Just $1 helps to provide 10 meals for people who don't have enough to eat.

Look into employer contributions. If you make a donation to a charity, see if your workplace has a program to match your gift. Some employers will match or even double the amount you're contributing.

Volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry. More than half of all soup kitchens, food pantries, and other meal programs rely entirely on volunteers. If you find yourself with a few spare hours, consider donating your time and serving or boxing up meals for people in need.

About half of people struggling with food insecurity live above the poverty line, Feeding America says. About half of people struggling with food insecurity live above the poverty line, Feeding America says. (Photo: ideabug/iStock)

Organize or donate to a food drive. Some food drives are seasonal and happen around Thanksgiving and Christmas, often at churches, schools, and libraries. Others run all year long. Surely your pantry holds a few non-perishable items that you could donate.

If you buy food to donate, pay for those items separately from the rest of your grocery items so you can get a receipt and take a deduction on your taxes.

If your community doesn't have food drives in place, maybe you want to start one. Pick a charity, ask what they need, and spread word of your efforts on social media to get people to participate.

Host a fundraiser. How generous are you feeling? Maybe you're willing to go so far as hosting a fundraiser for a charity that works to end hunger, whether at your home or another location. From an informal bake sale to a glamorous silent auction, any amount helps.

Community garden Join a community garden and grow healthy food for people in need in your area. (Photo: Monkey Business Images/Thinkstock)

Start or join a community garden. Community gardens have multiple benefits. They provide green space, nutritious food, and a place for social interaction. You'll get to know your neighbors as you get your hands dirty, and you'll be growing healthy food for people who don't get enough of it.

If you're going to commit to starting a new garden, know that it's no small time investment. Cultivating plants to feed a community takes days and weeks, not a few hours on the occasional weekend.

Study up and help a senior citizen. Many people who could benefit from assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps), don't know about them or how to apply for them. The AARP says that only about a third of eligible senior citizens are enrolled in the food stamp program.

While it might feel uncomfortable to approach an acquaintance and offer to help them get food stamps, the benefits of getting someone in need long-term help outweigh the short-term awkwardness of the conversation. The AARP has tips on how to have the discussion and how to determine if someone is eligible for benefits.

Advocate for hunger programs. "Federal nutrition programs matter. A child who cannot rely on dinner at home is assured breakfast at school because of the School Breakfast Program," Feeding America says. But if support fades for those programs both in Washington, D.C. and in your own state, the initiatives may be at risk.

Feeding America has multiple ways you can lobby your representatives to support hunger-related programs. And here's a form letter that you can customize and send to lawmakers.

Sponsor a family. The Family-to-Family program is a national hunger relief nonprofit organization that provides families with food assistance during difficult times. You can sign up to sponsor a family with a monthly box of groceries for $36.50, and you can choose to sponsor any family in need or a family in your specific community.

Top Image Credit: wjarek/iStock

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