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.
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.
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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.”
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 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.
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.
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