From a child receiving a hot lunch to a volunteer sorting apples to a truck driver delivering donated food to an individual making a donation. These are the stories that paint the full picture of the issue of hunger in America.
Of my three kids, Hailey, 8, is the most sensitive to the fact that things have been tight for our family lately. Six months ago I was laid off from my job in college admissions right as my husband, John, went out of work on disability due to issues from working his construction job of 14 years. Kylie, 3, is go-with-the-flow, and Kurt, my stepson, is your typical 18-year-old with his own worries and dreams. But Hailey is the one who watched me going through a huge binder of all our of utility bills, credit card and mortgage statements, methodically calling each company to see who could work with us, as our savings dwindled. She saw the relief on my face when we learned of the food pantry at Resurrection Life Fellowship; she sees the gratitude I feel each month when volunteers load up our car with healthy food and fresh produce, knowing that with the pantry's help, her dad and I will make sure that she and her siblings will always have enough to eat. I hope that she doesn't worry about how John plots creative ways to make the food stretch into the summer, when we're faced with three months without the school's free lunch program, or notice that before we started using the pantry John and I often ate ramen noodles for our own dinner after they went to bed. Most of all, I hope she can see that things are looking up for us; John just took a new job that will be easier on his body, and we're getting slowly back on our feet. With our monthly relief from the food pantry, our family has been able to weather this difficult period together.
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If there is one thing that small business owner Jason Schmidt understands, it is family. He has been a part of his family’s business, Home Telephone Co., most of his life. His parents were always demonstrating the importance of helping others and opened his eyes to helping fight hunger nearby. Now, as an adult, Jason not only gives regularly to Feeding America, but also made the commitment to helping future generations by making a planned gift.
Jason says: “When I was growing up, my dad offered the office space of our family business as a place to hand out surplus commodities to those in need. There was something about seeing the huge lines to get help once a month that really stuck with me.
In my case, our business is directly connected to our community. Giving back to the community is very important to us. I like the idea of helping on both a local and national level - hunger doesn’t know boundaries, so wherever there is a need I'm happy to do my part by making gifts to Feeding America.
I see the tremendous need for the services that Feeding America provides. It’s not something that’s always in the headlines, but you see people struggling to get jobs and take care of their families and I feel a responsibility to help out as much as I can to help alleviate hunger.”
I first visited my local food pantry five years ago. I am a single mother and although I work almost every day, it’s just not enough. I needed some extra help – so I decided to ask for it. Visiting the pantry changed my life. Not only has it helped me feed my growing girls, but it also has given me a community and a purpose beyond what I could have imagined.
I began volunteering at the pantry a few months after my first visit. I was with my daughters and the coordinators asked if anyone in line could help translate Spanish to English for them and help hand out food. We all volunteered – and have been volunteering every Friday ever since.
Volunteering for us is a family affair. Each one of my daughters has a different role. The youngest, who is seven, helps me hand out food, while my fourteen year old runs a distribution table by herself. Through our time at the pantry, I have been able to teach my children the value of giving back and helping people in need – a lesson I hope they carry with them all of their lives.
The pantry has also taught us the value of community. Through volunteering I have built invaluable relationships with my neighbors – who are both the people we serve and my fellow volunteers. People around town recognize me now; they say hi and share their stories. They tell me how much the food pantry is helping them – and it feels good to know I am making a difference in their lives.
I love volunteering. I look forward to Friday each week and my children do as well. Although it can be discouraging to see how many people are in need, I find hope in the fact that even more people are willing to help. I encourage everyone to learn more about their local food pantry and get involved. Volunteer or donate. I promise, even giving back in a small way can make a big difference – in your life and the lives of others.
Sometimes, when it rains, it really pours. And when my family faced enormous medical bills that sent us into thousands of dollars of debt right as I got pregnant with my third child—even in spite of my husband’s full-time job and health care coverage—it honestly felt more like a flood. Sometimes, after paying our mortgage and monthly utility bills we would have $12 left in the bank, far from being enough to feed a family of five for the month. And yet we didn’t quite qualify for any financial assistance. So when we discovered Eleanor’s Pantry and began going for groceries there each month, it was very humbling, but so relieving and welcoming. Now, even as we get slowly back on our feet the pantry is the reason we’re getting by. The meats, dairy products, and fresh produce we get each month keep my kids happy and healthy. It turns out the boxed meals and dry goods we get have been a saving grace, too; in anticipation of summer, when we no longer have the school’s free lunch program, I stored them up for months in my laundry room. Now I have quick, easy meals and snacks to serve my children each day, which takes a huge load off my mind until school starts back up again.
Not having enough is really tough. But at the same time, our wants in life have changed so much. My children know now that we can never know someone else’s story, the same way no one can look at us and truly know ours. I do hope my children never have to struggle this much, but I also hope that when they look back at this time, they remember that we always had each other.
I began raising my four granddaughters a few years ago, after my son passed away. Their mother isn’t able to raise them, so all of a sudden, I found myself with children again. The circumstances were tragic, but it’s been a blessing to have them around.
It has put an unexpected strain on our budget though. My husband’s a truck driver, and while he works full time, he can’t put in the miles like he used to. We weren’t financially prepared to raise four grandkids in our senior years, so we pinch pennies as much as we can to put food on the table.
It’s particularly hard for us to make ends meet in the summer. During the school year they get free breakfast and lunch at school – but in the summer, it’s on me to feed them every meal. I do my best – we garden, hunt, pick berries, and can food – but still, without this feeding program, I don’t know what we would do. My girls are growing, and they need to get enough to eat.
The people putting on this program are doing a good thing. I know kids are going hungry every day in my community. I hope the food bank continues to feed kids like this. My family might not always need help, but I’m sure there will be someone else here who will.
*Gleaners Food Bank in Indianapolis, IN, gives free lunch to kids through a variety of summer feeding programs throughout its service area – including the program Deb and her granddaughters attend in North Vernon, IN.
My family of four used to receive Food Stamps. In fact, we benefited from them several times over the years, dating back when they came in a booklet of coupons rather than the debit cards used today. I also stood in line every Friday to receive food from the local Salvation Army for over a year.
Eventually a neighbor started a small food pantry in our town. It was literally a pantry, in that she stored the food in a spare closet. We received food from her, and when I was able I donated to share with others.I also helped promote what this woman was doing on her own, out of her own house. We finally reached a point where we no longer needed to receive food but that didn't stop me from making donations and spreading the word.
She is gone now, but the food pantry she started from her own money in her own home is now run by the local city council and is going strong. It's proof that one person can really make a difference to a lot of people.
Feeding America donor Giovanni DeGarimore, owner of Giovanni’s Fish Market, makes it a priority to give what he can to those struggling with hunger across the country and in his own community. In June his fish market celebrated their 30th anniversary with a fundraising event and hunger awareness campaign that included serving 2,000 people with free fish and chips from his restaurant. He also raised $2,000 for the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County.
Giovanni says: “I believe making a difference starts at home. As a father, hunger strikes a special chord with me because you never want to see a child go without food. Thinking about my daughter going hungry and seeing the statistics of child hunger inspires me to do more because we waste so much food in our country.
The most meaningful part about my experience with Feeding America over the last three years has been knowing that I’m giving back in the most impactful way. I believe the ultimate goal of any charitable endeavor is knowing that you are making a difference in people’s lives and that the majority of the funds are going directly to helping those who really need it.
Since I’m in a position to give back, I like to do what I can. That is why I’m extremely happy that we were able to serve roughly 2,000 people, including many members of our homeless community, with free fish and chips at our fish market on June 3rd. Our ‘Free Fish and Chips’ Day was part of the hunger awareness campaign #LetsFeedThemAll.
I’m just hoping to create a ripple effect. I don’t want to just raise awareness for one day - I want to create real change. I hope other businesses will be inspired to start something similar. If every restaurant or business gave free food one day a year, we could make a significant impact on the issue of hunger. I want to motivate others to participate and give the gift of a meal.”
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