Real Stories of Hunger

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

Tighe Merkert, Feeding America donor and advocate
Tighe Merkert
Maryland
For over seven years, Tighe Merkert has been a generous supporter of Feeding America and has...
Tighe Merkert, Feeding America donor and advocate
Tighe Merkert
Maryland

For over seven years, Tighe Merkert has been a generous supporter of Feeding America and has broadened the awareness on the issue of hunger among the employees of Marriner Marketing Communications in Columbia, Maryland.

“So many hunger efforts are globally focused but during the great recession of 2007-09 I felt that we needed to help our communities right here in the USA. It was a very difficult time for people,” Tighe said. “Hunger is close to us in our communities – I see it in my hometown of Annapolis, Maryland, and in many other cities where you would not expect it. 

Some people just need a little helping hand. The need is so great and it seems possible to end hunger, but it will take a united effort.

It is important to get nutritious food to people in need. Not only do we need to continue to distribute healthier food to people struggling with hunger but we also need to provide education on the connection of food and health. There is a knowledge gap. We can help people in need have access not only to nutritious food but a better understanding of nutrition and the many benefits that healthy food provides a family.

When deciding on which hunger organization to support, I researched who was doing what well and who was getting the money where it needs to go. Feeding America does it well and has a high efficiency rating, which is important to me.

This past year it was even easier to decide to support Feeding America due to the Christopher Society Matching Gift Fund, which doubled our contribution. It was very generous of Doris Christopher to set up the society.  This allowed us both to multiply our impact! We are united on a cause and the effect is mutual.

With that said, the commitment is more than just financial. We also support our employees to take time out of their day to help contribute to a great cause – just recently we had a group volunteer at the Maryland Food Bank. We packed out 12,486 meals for Maryland families, which made everyone feel a real sense of accomplishment. I am proud to be able to create awareness of this issue and motivate others to be part of the solution.”

 

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Brittany Hodak and Jennifer Barker
Brittany Hodak and Jennifer Barker
The plan was simple: reallocate donated per diems from individuals and corporations to help people...
Brittany Hodak and Jennifer Barker
Brittany Hodak and Jennifer Barker

Brittany Hodak is no stranger to great ideas. With accolades including Advertising Age’s 40 Under 40 list, Inc.’s 35 Under 35 list, and Billboard’s 30 Under 30 list, she’s had many creative breakthroughs, including her innovative concept for the marketing company, ZinePak, first presented on the TV show Shark Tank. But for people struggling with hunger, many would say her best idea was yet to come.

While filming Shark Tank, when notified that she was the recipient of “per diems”—a daily allowance for expenses—the seed was planted. A few weeks later in conversation with her cousin and future business partner and Co-Founder Jennifer Barker, the idea blossomed into the non-profit Per Diems Against Poverty. The plan was simple: reallocate donated per diems from individuals and corporations to help people in need, specifically, Americans struggling with food insecurity. One hundred percent of per diems are donated to Feeding America.

“As early as I can remember,” says Jennifer, “my parents emphasized the importance of serving others, especially those who are suffering in poverty. I knew when Brittany approached me on Thanksgiving Day in 2014 that launching Per Diems Against Poverty was the cause I had been searching for. While we did not come from a food-insecure family, many of the children with whom we attended school experienced hunger daily. Hunger in America is a huge yet very solvable problem.”

Since the company’s launch in 2015, this concept of kindness has struck a chord with multiple entertainers, executives and athletes, most notably major league baseball player Curtis Granderson. Granderson, a world-class athlete from humble beginnings, remembers his early days when money was tight. Now he donates his per diem funds to help provide food to the one in seven Americans who struggle with hunger. His recent $10,000 donation generated 110,000 meals for people in need.

Per Diems Against Poverty has a goal for 2016: provide 10 million meals for Americans struggling with hunger. Brittany and Jennifer have done the math. Their target will be reached when only 100 professional baseball players pledge their per diems for the 2016 season.

Jennifer adds, “The fact that 1 in 7 million Americans continues to struggle with food insecurity is unacceptable. Millions of dollars in contractual per diems are paid annually to Americans, many of whom do not depend upon these funds for food. We are inspired by the difference these donated per diems have already made in the lives of thousands of Americans through Feeding America's network of food banks and are proud to partner with their organization. They share our core values and determination to see a day when no American goes hungry, and thanks to them, we were able to hit the ground running and make a positive impact from day one, rather than having to build out our own infrastructure. We are confident that our programs can be part of the solution to ending hunger in America.” 

Feeding America is a proud partner of Per Diems Against Poverty and we applaud their innovative approach to fighting hunger. In turn, we thank the individuals who donate to the cause. For the 48 million Americans who struggle with hunger, your generosity becomes fresh vegetables for an older American, a nutritious breakfast to help a child concentrate in school and a bag of groceries for a family in need. All bright ideas that bring hope for a better tomorrow.

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Priscilla and family Play Video
Your Story: Priscilla
El Paso, TX
"As a veteran, it’s really tough to ask for help. The Navy taught me to be independent. I was...
Your Story: Priscilla
El Paso, TX

I am a Navy veteran. I was honorably discharged after serving my country for four years on several detachments and deployments. I loved my time in the Navy. Sure, it was hard work but I got to see the world and I was always taken care of. It wasn’t until after I got out that my struggles really began.

I’m a single mom to two beautiful girls – Daeja is five and Divinity is six. My husband and I split up a few years ago and unfortunately I don’t receive any support. I want to work hard and earn a living, but right now my daughters’ school schedules don’t allow it. Daeja is too young to attend school all day, and I can’t afford the daycare I’d need to work full time. I do everything I can to make the most of the few hours she is in school – I clean homes, landscape lawns; anything to make a little money to keep the shelves stocked. But as you can imagine, it’s not enough. There have been times when I didn’t eat so my daughters could.

As a veteran, it’s really tough to ask for help. The Navy taught me to be independent. I was ashamed to admit that I couldn’t make it on my own. My daughters were the only reason I ended up asking for assistance. Their needs motivated me to put my pride aside and visit the Veterans Nonprofit food pantry – served by El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank. By giving us food, the pantry restored a sense of normalcy to our lives and gave us the strength and inspiration we needed to keep reaching for a better day.

I now know that a better day will be here soon. In a few months, Daeja will be old enough to attend full-time kindergarten, which will allow me to work enough hours to make ends meet. I’m not sure I’d be as confident about the future without the food pantry’s support. To me, the people there are angels, and I can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done.

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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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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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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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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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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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