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.
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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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.
I’ve provided for myself throughout my life. Not just myself – I raised six children, worked full time and never once had to ask for help. When I first retired, I retired on a small subsistence farm where I live to this day. I spent years selling rugs I wove and wool I spun, and for a long time it gave me enough money to live on. But when the recession hit people no longer had money to purchase my goods, and I really haven’t been able to recover since then.
I consider myself a very resourceful person, and I do what I can to provide for myself. I have chickens that give me eggs and I grow a lot of my own vegetables – but I still need more food than that to help me stay healthy and strong. When business first went south, I was struggling, but I didn’t want to ask for help. There came a point however, when I had to choose between buying food and paying for heat. Winters in New England get very cold – there’s a wind chill of -11 today – so I put my pride aside and went to my local food pantry.
The people at the food pantry made asking for help easy. They were respectful and they truly cared. I now rely on the food pantry to help supplement the food I can grow and the little can afford to buy. Without its help, I just wouldn’t have all the food that I need.
It’s not easy to admit you need a helping hand when you’ve lived an independent life for decades. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from visiting the food pantry, it’s that I’m not the only one who struggles. There are so many people going through the same things I am, and everybody – in one way or another – has rough times. It’s very, very comforting to know that I have my friends at the food pantry to help lift me up when I fall and enable me to not only get through – but also enjoy – my golden years.
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.”
I am a disabled chef and I still find a way to help in my community by helping feeding the hungry and the homeless. I am a child of the school lunch program all through my educational life till 18b yrs of age. I became a chef because i never wanted be hungry again, So I dedicated my life to feeding the masses, I recently lost my only child a little over a year ago and she and i did service together. While my heart is still broken because of he sudden passing at 20 years of age leaving behind a 15 day old daughter. I feel that must continue in the aid of feeding people. I can't stop now! I do volunteer work at the church and right now the panty is almost empty and it's summer there are a lot of kids that are gonna be hungry this summer. It weighs heavy on my heart that we can not fill our pantry and feed some families this summer. i don''t know the exact protocol for getting help. Thank you. Rochelle
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