How to help your neighbors get by this summer and beyond

June 24, 2020
by Paul Morello

As many places begin to reopen and we ease into our new normal, it can be more difficult for us to remember those who are still struggling – let alone admit if we’re struggling too. But, Feeding America estimates that an additional 17.1 million people could face hunger because of the pandemic, including nearly 7 million children. And for so many of our neighbors, the world is far from normal right now. This summer, there are some easy ways for us to continue to help our neighbors, so they know it’s ok to still be struggling and there is help available: 

1. Spread the word about summer meal programs

One of the biggest reasons our neighbors might not seek out help is because they don’t know help exists. This is especially true during the summer when free summer meal programs take place throughout the community but are hard to find. So, let’s change that! 

Take to social media, your neighborhood group, or your family text and share the three places to find information about local summer meal programs. Often these programs don’t require any paperwork or proof of income:

  • Text ‘FOOD’ to 877-877. Thanks to our friends at No Kid Hungry, you can find summer meal sites near you by simply texting and providing your address. The service will text back a list of nearby summer meal sites, including their address and contact information.
  • Call the USDA Hotline at 866-348-6479. The USDA offers a free, confidential hotline to help find summer meals for kids.
  • Contact your local food bank. Many summer meals programs are operated by Feeding America food banks. Find your local food bank and ask them about summer meal sites in your area. Food banks often work with dozens of sites, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a program near your home.

2. Remind your friends, family, and neighbors that it’s okay to need help

Whether it’s on social media or in person, let the people in your life know that you don’t judge them for needing help. Everyone needs a little help sometimes, especially these days, and that there are plenty of resources available.

Sometimes, you don’t even need to ask if someone is struggling. Just ask your friends and family how they’ve been and what you can do to help them de-stress. Reminding people that you’re happy to help however you can will go a long way and allow people to open up. Asking your loved ones what kind of help they need to rather than making an assumption helps to make them feel empowered. Maybe the most helpful thing you can do is offer to watch their children and give them a ride to visit the food bank or local summer meal program.

3. Volunteer at a summer meals site or food bank

Many summer meals programs rely on volunteers to help unload, set up and distribute meals. Some food banks even use volunteers to hand out summer meals flyers around the neighborhood. At some food banks, volunteers pack shelf-stable summer meal kits. Food banks work hard to keep volunteer safe so don’t let that hold you back from helping this summer. Whatever the opportunity, the best place to start is to check with your local food bank to see how you can help connect kids with meals this summer. 

4. Donate to your local food bank

From assembling summer meals, to loading those meals into trucks, to even putting gas in food bank trucks, it takes a lot of coordination and resources to get summer meals to kids in the community. Food banks are dedicated to ensuring as many kids as possible have access to meals when school is out, but they need your help. Find your food bank and make a donation to help support their summer meal programs at a time when they’re needed most.