Learn more about Americans facing hunger, and how others are making a difference through volunteering, donating and advocating
My name is Zoey and I’m 11 years old. I live in Maine with my mom and my brother Zeus.
My mom works really hard to make sure me and Zeus have a roof over our head and enough to eat. When we’re eating, she’ll make sure we eat first and are full. Then if there’s leftovers she’ll make dinner for herself. She works from home, but I know it’s still a struggle.
During the school year, I get free lunch and breakfast at school, which helps my mom make sure we have enough food for the weekends. But during the summer when school is out, we don’t have those meals, so instead we go to the free lunch program.
I love the free lunch program. I go every day. They serve us turkey and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, apples, carrots and broccoli. It’s really good food that gives me the energy I need to be active and play with my friends. It also helps my mom not stress, because she doesn’t have to worry about finding money to feed us extra meals during the summer.
Without the lunch program, I would be sad. I’m really happy that we have it. To everyone who makes it possible I want to say thank you. Because you’re making kids like me happy and our parents happy too, by making it easier for all of us to get enough to eat.
*We are able to tell this story with our partner, C&S Wholesale Grocers, who helped with production costs.
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When your loved ones need you, you can either turn away or choose to help. My name is Candy, and I chose to help.
Currently, I live with and take care of my aging parents. I am actually married with three children – ages 13, 14 and 18 – but my parents require 24-hour care, so I stay with them while the rest of my family lives next door.
A few years ago, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It’s gotten to the point where he no longer remembers anyone and can’t do anything for himself. My mother’s health is failing as well. She doesn’t have the ability to care for him, so the responsibility is on me.
My parents worked their entire lives, but through no fault of their own they’ve been left with only a small, fixed income. Consequently, it’s fallen on my family to help provide for them. My husband works full time, but with seven mouths to feed now it’s barely enough to get by. We’ve often had to choose between buying food and medicine, and sometimes, my husband and I skip meals altogether so my parents can eat. I love my parents, but the constant stress of having to watch their every move and wonder how we’ll pay our next bill can really be wearing.
That’s why, when I discovered the food pantry in our town I was truly relieved. With their help, I no longer have to worry about where our next meal is coming from. The food pantry helps in other ways too – they often provide basic household items like soap and paper towels, and they provide emotional support. Many of the volunteers there help because they’ve been where I am: struggling to get by. They understand where I‘m coming from, and they care.
I am so grateful for the food pantry. Without their help, my family might simply go hungry. These past few years have been some of the most difficult of my life – but having the pantry to turn to is helping me get through. In the midst of my stress, I can relax better at night knowing that my family will have breakfast in the morning. The food pantry’s help is blessing that someday, I hope to be able to forward on.
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.”
David Askew works two jobs, loves painting and helps the men and women who live on skid row in downtown Los Angeles. To understand the wonder of his achievements, David explains, one must look at his past: David spent 11 years homeless, suffering from addiction, living on those very streets on skid row.
Hitting bottom and owning only a lighter, David made his way to the Midnight Mission, an organization that assists people experiencing homelessness and moves them to self-sufficiency by providing services, counseling, education and training. That day was a turning point for David, and the Mission became his home for nearly three years.
Now a Midnight Mission alumni and five years in recovery, David remembers the challenges of the streets — especially the daily battle with hunger. “It was tough out there,” says David, “you do what you have to do.” And for David that meant visiting food programs at local churches, panhandling and at times even stealing food or eating discarded meals.
Those memories come to the forefront when he sees the people currently walking where he walked, living where he lived. And they propel him to give back by reaching out a helping hand or providing a word of encouragement, ever striving to do more.
David finds inspiration in the hunger-relief efforts of Feeding America and fellow compassionate supporters who help to end hunger in their own communities.
For David, the days of hunger have been replaced with the hope that he can inspire others. “My personal life has made me what I am today.” His advice? “Never give up on yourself, no matter how hard it may seem. Keep pushing forward.”
David’s story was profiled in a short documentary titled The Unseen by Feeding America supporter and hunger advocate Liv Rosenbloom. His art work is available here.
For the Buelow family, “changing their corner of the world” is more than a phrase. Todd, Michelle and their two daughters each does his or her part to address hunger, poverty and homelessness, among other social issues, in their community.
It only takes a short conversation with her to learn that business savvy and a caring heart find their perfect match in Michelle Buelow. A mom-turned-entrepreneur, Michelle is CEO of Bella Tunno, a baby and parenting accessories line designed to make a difference. Launched in 2005, Bella Tunno has grown from an in-home venture to a thriving commercial business with diaper bags, crawler kneepads, bibs, blankets, pint-size bodysuits and more available at retailers of all sizes, including Nordstrom and Amazon.
A passion for hunger relief may seem misplaced amid this fast-paced, successful business. But for the Buelow family, helping others — including eradicating hunger — is not an afterthought, but rather part of the company’s very foundation.
One impactful moment solidified the family’s long-term commitment to hunger relief. A volunteer experience at a local elementary school brought the severity of child hunger into focus. While sharing tangerines with first and second-graders during story hour, Michelle discovered that some of the children had never heard of the fruit. And before she could explain that the peel should be discarded, several students bit into them like apples. But then came the biggest surprise. “Some children chose to continue eating the rind because they were so hungry,” said Michelle. “You cannot know that happens and not do something about it.”
Blending the Buelow family’s passion for hunger relief with Bella Tunno’s child-centric mission made perfect sense. Since 2013, Bella Tunno’s Buy One Give One Initiative (B1G Initiative) helps alleviate childhood hunger in the United States. For every product sold, Bella Tunno donates one meal to Feeding America to help children struggling with hunger. “Through the campaign, consumers play a role in ending hunger,” said Michelle. “They have direct impact, connecting one child in America with one meal.”
Now in its fourth year, the B1G Initiative has gone from baby steps to an all-out sprint, having raised funds for more than 685,000 meals to date. “The more we do, the more we want to do,” Michelle said. “It hurts your heart to see children facing hunger.” And so, to address the 1 in 6 children who struggle with hunger across America, Bella Tunno will spread the love even further: From Valentine’s Day through the end of February 2017, every product sold will generate not one, but a six-meal donation, to Feeding America.
We asked Michelle how a heart for hunger relief grew into a national effort with Feeding America. “It was not by chance,” said Michelle emphatically. “It was through research.” Bella Tunno staff compiled a spreadsheet of non-profits associated with key words like “children,” “family” and “meals.” Then they dove further, analyzing and comparing Charity Navigator ratings, fundraising efficiency, charitable commitment ratings, credibility and whether the funds would be used here in the United States. It revealed one conclusion: “Feeding America became the clear choice,” said Michelle. “We love our partnership. When you give to Feeding America, your gifts will have the most impact and the most reach.”
Proud of their commitment to alleviating hunger with Feeding America, Michelle, her family and the Bella Tunno team invite everyone to share the love during this Valentine’s season and all year round. Through the B1G Initiative, “for every action there is a philanthropic reaction” — connecting food-insecure children with much-needed meals. And as a result of their partnership with Feeding America, with its ability to feed more children than any other hunger-relief organization, participants can know “that what you do is exponentially impactful.”
As part of Bella Tunno’s commitment to "do better, live brighter and love bigger," each sale triggers a financial donation to help someone in need. Donations are directed to the Matt Tunno Make a Difference Memorial Fund, created to honor Michelle’s late brother who struggled with drug dependency. From there, funds are disbursed to a myriad of philanthropic causes close to the Buelow family’s heart in their community of Charlotte, North Carolina and across the country, including hunger relief for children.
With mantras like “Grateful,” “Love is All We Need,” and “Warrior” inscribed in the designs of each collection, Spiritual Gangster is a yoga-inspired clothing brand that reflects an inner state of being. A state of being rooted in gratitude.
For every item sold, the company donates proceeds to provide a meal to a person in need. “We believe that no person should go hungry,” comments Spiritual Gangster CEO Ian Lopatin, “and every person has the right to food and shelter.” With an astounding 48 million people in America struggling with hunger, he adds, “We can do something to end this epidemic by donating meals, educating our community, and empowering one another to make a social impact.”
With Spiritual Gangster’s roots in Phoenix, Lopatin talks about the brand’s early affiliation with St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance. He mentions, “We found that they were the first food bank in Arizona and built a close relationship with them. In addition to monetary donations, our team packed meals alongside organizers and other dedicated volunteers.”
“Beyond good karma, Spiritual Gangster is committed to addressing and eradicating America’s hunger epidemic,” Lopatin explains and further adds, “The brand and the business is a platform to give back and inspire others to be agents of change. In giving to others, we are truly giving to ourselves. In feeding others, we are feeding ourselves.” Another mantra frequently messaged in Spiritual Gangster’s collections is “We Are All One” – echoing his belief in connectedness. Lopatin concludes with, “Spiritual Gangster is truly a movement disguised as a clothing brand.”
My husband, three children and I live off of my salary of $22,000 per year. My husband stays home with the children because even with him working, we can’t afford the cost of daycare. I’m a school health aide, work full time and have an associate’s degree – but I still cannot generate enough income for my family to live comfortably.
However, I am hoping that will change soon. I’m in the process of completing my bachelor’s degree and I only have a few more semesters to go. With my new degree, I can earn more and provide a better life for my family. In the meantime though, we rely on the food pantry to help feed our children.
The pantry is helpful all year round, but it is particularly helpful for us during summer. I am only employed nine months of the year because I work at a school. From June to September, we have no income coming in. On top of that, my children aren’t receiving free school meals – so I have to stretch our budget even further those extra costs. I start stocking up shelf-stable items from the pantry early in the year so I know we’ll have enough. During the summer, I also cut food costs by growing fruits and vegetables in my garden. I do everything I can to make sure my children have enough of the healthy food they need to grow strong – no matter the season.
We are low income and to be honest, it’s really self-defeating at times. Especially when I get up and go to work each day like everyone else, but still have to ask others for help to put food on the table. Even so, I refuse to let my income level define me. I am Samantha. I am a mother, a wife and I am surrounded by a loving, caring community – including the people at the food pantry who are always there for us.
I’m going to get my degree and tomorrow will be brighter. But today, I’m still thankful for what I have. We may not experience the “finer things” in life but we have everything we need, including love – and that’s something money will never be able to buy.
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