ALERT: 650 new monthly donors needed by February 29th
These are the stories that paint the full picture of the issue of hunger in America.
"For the longest time, my family lived in Lubbock, Texas – a town about seven hours north of here. We were secure there. We had a three bedroom house, a big yard and my husband had a well-paying job that was more than enough to provide for our three-year-old son. About four months ago however, we had to give it all up and move south to take care of my mother and aunt. My mother is getting older and suffers from Parkinson’s, and my aunt has disabilities that require her to use an oxygen tank and limit her mobility. They need us here to reliably make their meals, drive them to doctors’ appointments and make sure they take their medication – among other tasks.
For us, family comes first. We were happy to sacrifice our lives to take care of two women who raised me, but it hasn’t been easy. My husband had to leave his job and is struggling to find a new one. We spent our savings on the move, and we now have five mouths to feed instead of three. My mother and aunt’s fixed incomes don’t go very far. At one point, we needed food and all we had was five dollars. That’s when we turned to the food pantry for help.
The food pantry has been a lifesaver. By giving us nutritious staples to get through the month, it’s turned a situation that could have been one of hopelessness and despair into a hopeful one – where we can feed our family and hold our heads up high through difficult, but temporary, time.
I know there is hope for the future. I only have to look at energy and optimism of my son to see that. Soon my husband will find work and we’ll be in a better place than we were before the move – better, because not only will we be financially stable but we’ll also be here for my mother and aunt when they need us most. Until then, the food pantry is getting us through. They are giving us food and also hope by showing us that we’re not in this alone. There are people out there to help; there are people out there who care."
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Jim, Kathleen and Jessica McCrorie became involved with the issue of hunger when they attended a seminar by their friend Tony Robbins. After hearing his story of struggling with hunger in his youth, the McCrories were inspired to become donors, advocates and volunteers on behalf of the issue of hunger. They are now involved with their local food bank as well as Feeding America. The youngest McCrorie family member, Jessica, even decided to give $100 of her own money to add to her family’s contributions.
After learning more about the work done by Feeding America and its network of food banks, Jessica said “I was surprised how many families can be helped by donating only one dollar.” In addition to making her own contribution, she decided to volunteer for Island Harvest, a Feeding America member food bank on Long Island. She collected food and funds at a local Whole Foods grocery store during this year’s Thanksgiving season. She felt the holiday seemed to encourage people to give, saying “I feel like people may have felt more generous and connected to the issue of hunger because the Thanksgiving holiday is a time for family and friends to come together and share a meal. It’s something that is easy to take for granted.” During Jessica’s volunteer day at the store, 30 turkeys were donated to help families in the community have Thanksgiving meals.
When she spoke to the customers, she emphasized the good that donations would do and where they would be going. Reflecting on her experience, Jessica said, “I described that the money and food was going to help hungry people in their own community. I also explained to customers what Island Harvest does and what they are about. I was surprised how much money people gave, and I was also surprised to learn that giving money is sometimes better than giving canned food because the food bank can buy more food at wholesale prices with the money.” The community was more than willing to help with the issue, and she even met someone who wanted to make food donations that would be sensitive to dietary needs, allergies or restrictions, which occur among people who face food insecurity just like they do among people who have enough.
Jessica said donating and volunteering “helps you feel good and helps others at the same time.” Despite being a busy teenager involved in many artistic and musical pursuits, she still wants to emphasize the importance of getting involved with a cause. She said, “As busy as you are, you can always make the time to help other people.” Jessica added, “When I’m hungry, I don’t have enough energy for school and all of the things I want to do,” emphasizing the impact that hunger can have on all aspects of a person’s life. She looks forward to volunteering again and knows that her time is well-spent volunteering with the food bank because they will use the food and funds quickly and efficiently to get more meals into the hands of her neighbors.
My husband Josh and I have three children. John is seven, Gavin is two and Marietta is one. When we first got married our lives were pretty stable. We had a place to live and both of us worked full time. We could pay the bills; we could buy our children the things they needed. But then I lost my job and things went downhill from there.
Josh lost his job the year after I did. We had just moved into a new home so the loss was especially tough. We did everything we could to find other work but apparently it just wasn’t enough. Today, we are down to our last dime. After the bills are paid, there is no money left. In fact, there is no money to pay the bills. We constantly have to make tough choices like choosing between buying diapers and paying the light bill. If it wasn’t for the food bank, we would definitely have to choose between paying for utilities and buying food.
We receive help from the food bank – Second Harvest of Northeast Tennessee – in two ways: through the mobile food bank that comes to our community monthly, and through the BackPack program at John’s school. Each Friday, he comes home with a bag full of healthy food that enables me to make quick, easy meals for all my children. Josh and I may have to skip meals, but we make sure our children never have to. Without help from the food bank though, I really don’t know how we’d feed them.
We never thought our lives would turn out like this – no one does. But when we did find ourselves in this situation we are so thankful the food bank is there to help. We won’t always struggle like this; I have hopes for a better future. In fact, Josh starts a new job this week and I’m planning on going to school to be a welder. We’ll work hard to get on our feet so we can give our children a better life. I want them to have the world and someday, the ability to give back.
My 12 year old daughter, Meagan, started Books For Bedtime in 2014, when she was 11. It is now a 501c3. She collects gently used and new books, and distributes them to children who do not have access to books. Around Columbus, Ohio, she has donated 7,500 books. She lets each child pick out a book of his or her own, and she gives an inspirational speech about how important reading is! Meagan recognizes that often families must choose between buying food or driving to the library, and has given around 1,000 books to a local food pantry, Neighborhood Services, Inc.
While the families wait to receive their food, they can choose out books, and read while they wait, and then take the books home! It has been a wonderful partnership! Books For Bedtime has raised $300, but so many people have benefited already! Through Volunteer Match, Meagan has worked with a website designer, who has designed a new website, www.booksforbedtimenonprofit.org! Things are growing, and getting bigger and better! And, all of this because an 11 year old girl wanted to make a difference!
I jokingly say that I raised a husband and 7 children. My husband died after 48 years of marriage and I was suddenly alone for the first time in my life. For a year I was miserable, and my health suffered. I told myself "JoAnn, you have to do something that will give you a reason to get up in the morning." I chose to volunteer at our local food bank. Now I have hundreds of families to care for. I have been there for 8 years now, and I thank God every day for sending me there. I am also the volunteer coordinator, and have made many very close friends with other volunteers. I love my life again.
My daughter wanted to see why I was spending so much time at the food bank. She started volunteering, and got hooked too. She eventually started the "Food For Thought" back pack program there. Her husband and two sons also volunteer. It's a family thing now.
I work part-time serving lunch at my children’s school. A year or two ago, a woman who works there approached me about volunteering for a new mobile food pantry that would be starting up once a month in the school parking lot. I knew my kids would love helping out, but I only had one question: can we receive the food, too?
Things had been tight for my family for a long time, but we especially felt the pinch when I left my job to stay home and take care of Brianna, 10, Richard, 8 and Savannah, now 19 months. My husband, Jim, had good work building fences, but it wasn’t enough; we had no extra money and even received a foreclosure notice on our house. So once we started receiving groceries at the pantry each month, which conveniently fell right between our food stamps renewal, we sighed a huge breath of relief. The things we get are just incredible: fresh, colorful produce, plenty of bread for sandwiches, cereals, milk – tons of staples. It lets me use our food stamps for meat that I store away in our freezer and it keeps us stocked with healthy foods. Jim even saw his type 2 diabetes disappear. And to make the experience even sweeter, the kids have a ton of fun helping out, setting up tables and boxes of food and helping other families fill up their baskets.
Between the mobile pantry, which continues throughout the summer, and a school-sponsored free summer lunch program, we’re getting by even without the daily free lunch we count on during the school year. It relieves a ton of stress. And when I’m stress-free, my kids are too. Someday, I hope they’ll all go to college like I never had the opportunity to do. Nothing, really, would make me happier than giving my kids a better life.
We have a small church, North San Juan Community Church, in the mountain community of North San Juan, California. We stress the Community part of our name by giving back. Every week our minister goes to Food Bank in Nevada City and picks up food. She divides the food into 30 grocery bags and delivers 5 bags a day to hungry people up here on the Ridge. She collects light weight food that is non-perishable and easy to carry. We have a tremendous amount of homeless who live in the woods in tents and campers. She also has a limited amount of dog food to distribute which she divides into small plastic bags. She only collects hugs and smiles for her efforts. Occasionally, she will accept what she calls "Pennies From Heaven" when one of the folks scours the parking lot for pennies. The church pays for gas every now & then, but she does it all for the love of fellow man.
Alok Appadurai received a letter from the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona in Tucson that moved him so deeply it became the catalyst that would grow his apparel line into a social entrepreneurship project called Fed By Threads. Now, every month Alok and his co-founder Jade Beall help feed thousands of Americans struggling with hunger in their local communities and nationally through Feeding America.
Alok says: “I grew up in a working class family in Philadelphia and I have been going to India my entire life, so I wasn’t naïve to the idea of hunger. But that letter from the food bank really solidified how severe the issue of hunger is in our own country. The sheer numbers to me were astronomical. I just couldn’t accept that so many people were food insecure and just move on with my normal day. It wasn’t going to happen – so Jade and I started kicking around ideas about how to help.
We began talking to our local food bank and the more we learned, the more we discovered that they didn’t need us to come with boxes of canned soup or other food each week. They needed me to apply my skill set as an entrepreneur and generate revenue. I’ve always believed that business should be used for all kinds of good, and that is how we came up with making t-shirts. At first, we would roll out a rack of them out in between sessions at our yoga studio in Tucson. If someone bought a t-shirt, it went towards helping Feeding America’s network of food banks feed dozens of people.
Not long after we started producing these t-shirts, we made the commitment to create and sell only clothing that was all American-made. We did this because we can feed people in the short term by donating funds for sourcing and distributing meals, but we can also feed people in the long term by creating stable jobs in our country.
There is something about feeding people that I think is the most innate good we can do. It’s a simple good and it never gets old. I told myself that our first goal was 400 meals, and then it was 10,000 and then 100,000 and now I’ve got a million meal goal that I don’t think is that far out. We aim to get people helping to feed America's hungriest mouths, those that are barely getting by. That's the core foundation of who we are.”
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