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.
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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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.
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.
Melissa Joy Manning is a fine jewelry designer and philanthropist who grew up in a household that valued social and environmental responsibility, principles she has incorporated into her business, Melissa Joy Manning, INC. Melissa Joy Manning, INC is dedicated to making a social impact through ethical, Green Certified practices. As part of her role as a social entrepreneur, Melissa supports and advocates for hunger relief through Feeding America as well as Alameda County Community Food Bank and Food Bank For New York City, both network member food banks that serve the communities where her MJM jewelry boutiques are located.
Melissa says: “I think there is just so much need, and I see it from my own back door in New York. It pains me to think that I am here doing what I love while knowing at the same time that a kid down the street may miss a meal that day. For me, it’s a matter of sharing our blessings with those who are less fortunate.
By giving to Feeding America, I know how much my dollar accomplishes and how many people are impacted by what I am able to give. As a donor, it is empowering to know that I am actively participating in the fight against hunger in my own communities and nationally.
I create jewelry to create change. All of our jewelry is made in-house by a team of artists who earn living wages and a competitive benefit and retirement package. We spend most of our lives at work and I believe that work should be a culture that embraces and supports every member. It is important to me that I not only take care of those within my organization but other members of my community, which is why I am proud to contribute to my local food banks and nationally through Feeding America.”
I am a 51 single woman with a disabiltiy that prevents me from earning gainful amount of income.
I went on food stamps 5 yrs ago and its been a big help to get fresh food fruits and veggies at the store. I have to be careful what I eat since recently my health has been declining and i am now working regulary so I have to rely on food pantries and friends to fill the gap at the end of each month.
I have no food or money to stock up my pantry and refrigerator so thats when I face hunger my bridge card has recentley been decreased down to 58.00 a month which is very little. So I have to look for more food pantrys ... it sure is hard to stretch every month each food item and each dollar you have. I hate living this way !!!
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.
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.”
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