Real Stories of Hunger

Learn more about Americans facing hunger, and how others are making a difference through volunteering, donating and advocating

Spiritual Gangster is a yoga-inspired clothing brand that reflects an inner state of being. A state of being rooted in gratitude.
Spiritual Gangster
For every item sold, the company donates proceeds to provide a meal to a person in need.
Spiritual Gangster is a yoga-inspired clothing brand that reflects an inner state of being. A state of being rooted in gratitude.
Spiritual Gangster

With mantras like “Grateful,” “Love is All We Need,” and “Warrior” inscribed in the designs of each collection, Spiritual Gangster is a yoga-inspired clothing brand that reflects an inner state of being. A state of being rooted in gratitude.

For every item sold, the company donates proceeds to provide a meal to a person in need. “We believe that no person should go hungry,” comments Spiritual Gangster CEO Ian Lopatin, “and every person has the right to food and shelter.” With an astounding 48 million people in America struggling with hunger, he adds, “We can do something to end this epidemic by donating meals, educating our community, and empowering one another to make a social impact.”

With Spiritual Gangster’s roots in Phoenix, Lopatin talks about the brand’s early affiliation with St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance. He mentions, “We found that they were the first food bank in Arizona and built a close relationship with them. In addition to monetary donations, our team packed meals alongside organizers and other dedicated volunteers.”

“Beyond good karma, Spiritual Gangster is committed to addressing and eradicating America’s hunger epidemic,” Lopatin explains and further adds, “The brand and the business is a platform to give back and inspire others to be agents of change. In giving to others, we are truly giving to ourselves. In feeding others, we are feeding ourselves.” Another mantra frequently messaged in Spiritual Gangster’s collections is “We Are All One” – echoing his belief in connectedness. Lopatin concludes with, “Spiritual Gangster is truly a movement disguised as a clothing brand.”

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Real Story: Candace - VideoPlay Video
Real Story: Candace
Wells, VT
"We’ve often had to choose between buying food and medicine, and sometimes, my husband and I skip...
Real Story: Candace
Wells, VT

When your loved ones need you, you can either turn away or choose to help. My name is Candy, and I chose to help.

Currently, I live with and take care of my aging parents. I am actually married with three children – ages 13, 14 and 18 – but my parents require 24-hour care, so I stay with them while the rest of my family lives next door.

A few years ago, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It’s gotten to the point where he no longer remembers anyone and can’t do anything for himself. My mother’s health is failing as well. She doesn’t have the ability to care for him, so the responsibility is on me.

My parents worked their entire lives, but through no fault of their own they’ve been left with only a small, fixed income. Consequently, it’s fallen on my family to help provide for them. My husband works full time, but with seven mouths to feed now it’s barely enough to get by. We’ve often had to choose between buying food and medicine, and sometimes, my husband and I skip meals altogether so my parents can eat. I love my parents, but the constant stress of having to watch their every move and wonder how we’ll pay our next bill can really be wearing.

That’s why, when I discovered the food pantry in our town I was truly relieved. With their help, I no longer have to worry about where our next meal is coming from. The food pantry helps in other ways too – they often provide basic household items like soap and paper towels, and they provide emotional support. Many of the volunteers there help because they’ve been where I am: struggling to get by. They understand where I‘m coming from, and they care.

I am so grateful for the food pantry. Without their help, my family might simply go hungry. These past few years have been some of the most difficult of my life – but having the pantry to turn to is helping me get through. In the midst of my stress, I can relax better at night knowing that my family will have breakfast in the morning. The food pantry’s help is blessing that someday, I hope to be able to forward on.  

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Your Story: Samantha and Cornell - VideoPlay Video
Your Story: Samantha and Cornell
"I do everything I can to make sure my children have enough of the healthy food they need to grow...
Your Story: Samantha and Cornell

My husband, three children and I live off of my salary of $22,000 per year. My husband stays home with the children because even with him working, we can’t afford the cost of daycare. I’m a school health aide, work full time and have an associate’s degree – but I still cannot generate enough income for my family to live comfortably.

However, I am hoping that will change soon. I’m in the process of completing my bachelor’s degree and I only have a few more semesters to go. With my new degree, I can earn more and provide a better life for my family. In the meantime though, we rely on the food pantry to help feed our children.

The pantry is helpful all year round, but it is particularly helpful for us during summer. I am only employed nine months of the year because I work at a school. From June to September, we have no income coming in. On top of that, my children aren’t receiving free school meals – so I have to stretch our budget even further those extra costs. I start stocking up shelf-stable items from the pantry early in the year so I know we’ll have enough. During the summer, I also cut food costs by growing fruits and vegetables in my garden. I do everything I can to make sure my children have enough of the healthy food they need to grow strong – no matter the season.

We are low income and to be honest, it’s really self-defeating at times. Especially when I get up and go to work each day like everyone else, but still have to ask others for help to put food on the table. Even so, I refuse to let my income level define me. I am Samantha. I am a mother, a wife and I am surrounded by a loving, caring community – including the people at the food pantry who are always there for us.

I’m going to get my degree and tomorrow will be brighter. But today, I’m still thankful for what I have. We may not experience the “finer things” in life but we have everything we need, including love – and that’s something money will never be able to buy.

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Marilee - Volunteer at Treasure Coast Food Bank
Marilee
Alabama
Marilee has been volunteering at Feeding the Gulf Coast for 9 months and in those 9 months she has...
Marilee - Volunteer at Treasure Coast Food Bank
Marilee
Alabama

I would like to tell you about an awesome volunteer we have at Feeding the Gulf Coast. Marilee has been volunteering at FTGC for 9 months and in those 9 months she has put in nearly 475 volunteer hours. She always arrives with a smile on her face and has a positive attitude. Marilee has volunteered in reclamation where she helped to sort over 53,000 pounds of donated food. She has helped with clerical needs, inputting data into Primarius and recording volunteer hours. She have performed many tasks in our warehouse:

  • Determines proper storage location for various product types
  • Safely transports product to proper warehouse location
  • Safely uses all warehouse equipment
  • Oversees product take-in process
  • Supports volunteer operations through safety oversight, teaching processes, and moving product and supplies as necessary

Marilee implemented new forms for pulling frozen and refrigerated product. This has proven to be more accurate and efficient when filling agency orders. She also maintains our produce coolers. With her creativity our produce looks more appealing to our agencies.

When asked, what do you enjoy about volunteering? Marilee answered, “This is my first volunteer job and I wasn’t sure what to expect. After realizing how many individuals and families need help, it is a good, but humbling feeling to know that you have helped in some way. I never realized there were so many hungry kids. The Backpack Program was a real eye-opener for that. I always feel like I have accomplished something when I leave the food bank and I look forward to coming back the next day.”

Marilee has been retired for a few years, prior to retirement she worked in the Space Shuttle Program for 26 years. She lives with her two one-year old German Shepherds, Ranger and Loki.

Story was submitted by Feeding the Gulf Coast.

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Jestine - A 92 year old food bank volunteer
Jestine
Columbia, SC
Jestine volunteers in one our Emergency Food Pantries at Harvest Hope Food Bank. She is a very young...
Jestine - A 92 year old food bank volunteer
Jestine
Columbia, SC

"Jestine volunteers in one our Emergency Food Pantries at Harvest Hope Food Bank. She is a very young 92 years of age and has enjoyed volunteering for the last 15 years. The choir at her church recently recognized her with a "Helping the Hungry" award. I asked Jestine what made her start volunteering in 2000. She said she had a close neighbor whose family was struggling with hunger at the time. She came to Harvest Hope to get them help and started volunteering ever since. Please say "Thank You" to Jestine and please share this post with your friends! She is just ONE of our almost 11k strong volunteer base!"

Submitted by the Harvest Hope Food Bank.

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Dave - Volunteer at Gleaners Community Food Bank
Dave
Indiana
Dave has been volunteering at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana since 2013 and has donated nearly 400...
Dave - Volunteer at Gleaners Community Food Bank
Dave
Indiana

Dave DePotter has been volunteering at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana since 2013 and has donated nearly 400 volunteer hours.  Dave regularly assists in our Community Cupboard Food Pantry – helping shoppers and stocking shelves. For the past two years, he has co-organized a golf outing to raise awareness and funds for Gleaners. Over $9,700 has been raised to help fight hunger in our community! Dave is our Hunger Hero for always going the extra mile with a smile on his face to fight hunger in Indiana!

Submitted by the Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana.

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Ian - volunteer
Ian
Missouri
Ian is a “Farm to Table” volunteer for Harvesters and specifically helps at the City Market in...
Ian - volunteer
Ian
Missouri

Ian is a “Farm to Table” volunteer for Harvesters. “Farm to Table” is a program where Harvesters collects fresh produce from Farmers Markets each Saturday. Ian specifically helps at the City Market in downtown Kansas City.

Ian is a great Harvesters’ representative because of his friendly manner and persuasive powers. He always personally speaks with each farmer at the market to politely ask for food donations and explain how difficult it is to access healthy food if you are food insecure.

After speaking with Ian, the farmers are always willing to donate. In fact, Ian is so good at this that his girlfriend, who is often with him on these excursions, nicknamed him the “Farmer Charmer”.

As a medical student, Ian wholeheartedly believes in and understands the importance of fresh, nutrient-rich produce in everyone’s diet—but especially for those who are food insecure. He enthusiastically supports Harvesters’ goal to provide more produce, and helps Harvesters meet that goal by his efforts.

In fact, one memorable Saturday, Ian arrived with more than 1,000 pounds of produce from the market. This was Ian’s first time volunteering and instead of going just to the market stalls of local farmers – he misunderstood and visited all the commercial stalls too. Ian returned to Harvesters ecstatic about the several pallets of food he had managed to fit in the van and set to work unloading it all with a huge smile on his face.

Though Ian has become very busy finishing medical school and applying to residency programs, his commitment to Harvesters has not waned.

Ian's story was submitted by Harvesters.

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William
Roanoke, VA
William
Roanoke, VA
After hearing about the need, I just volunteered. It was simple on my local food bank's website. They had a bunch of opportunities. I helped sort food all morning. I'll be going back regularly.

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