Pantries battle food insecurity with community help

Whether unemployed, underemployed or just trying to get over a financial bump, individuals are seeking help from food pantries across the country to make ends meet.

It is now estimated that one in six Americans are dealing with hunger. Even though as many as 65 percent of those who are seeking food assistance are working, they still struggling to provide the basics for their families. The impact of hunger on our children is significant. Helping people have access to healthy, whole food has become a priority in many communities.

One guard against hunger is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program  (SNAP – also known as Food Stamps). SNAP has helped families get the food that they need for decades, but as the cost of other basics like utilities and prescription drugs rise, SNAP doesn’t always provide enough food assistance to assure that there are no hungry days in any month for any family member. Food pantries are trying to provide the additional food needed so that no American goes hungry.

Pantries rely on donations from individuals and corporations. If you are presented with the chance to donate, and have food to share, please consider the following. Many individuals who are using food pantries do not have health insurance and may have chronic health issues like cardiovascular disease, diabetes or even cancer. There is a dire need for healthy, whole foods that support wellness. Low sodium vegetables, whole-grain pasta, whole-grain cereal and fruits canned in either their own juice or light syrup are always needed.

When selecting food for a food drive, remember that most food drives do not accept items in glass jars nor do they accept items that require refrigeration. Please check the expiration dates on items that you donate. Many pantries are not allowed to distribute expired food and the money that the pantry must spend to dispose of these items could be better spent on buying food or paying the utility bills necessary to keep the pantry open.

Likewise, if you have a little extra room in your garden, you can grow a row for the hungry. Fresh produce is welcomed by many pantries. Though produce is not accepted in most food drives, it is possible to connect with a local food pantry in your area to arrange to donate fresh vegetables. Keep in mind that pantry hours vary, and not all pantries have refrigeration. Speak with the pantry coordinator to make sure that your produce can be handled and stored safely, and can be distributed before it goes bad.

There are many paths that can lead an individual or a family to the door of a food pantry. In America there is often a stigma associated with needing help to feed your family. Understanding hunger can be difficult if you have never experienced it. By learning more about how hunger affects your community, and sharing our resources, we can help eliminate both the hunger and the shame of hunger in America.