23 October 2014

Support Your Local Food Bank (November 2014)

In my country, the United States, November is the month of Thanksgiving, a holiday most often celebrated as a time to feast heartily with loved ones.  It's definitely a food holiday for me, anyway.  This led me to choose food banks as my advocacy topic for November.  Let's help everyone have a delicious, fulfilling Thanksgiving this year!

Platter of Fresh Buttered Rolls
Fresh-baked, buttered rolls from a Thanksgiving Past!

To give an idea of why this cause is worth supporting, I would like to share a few statistics from the USDA.  In the United States in 2013:

  • More than one in ten households (14.3%) experienced some form of food insecurity.
  • About one in twenty households (5.6%) experienced very low food security, which means "normal eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced at times during the year because they had insufficient money or other resources for food."
  • In about one in ten households with children (9.9%), both the adults and the kids suffered from some form of food insecurity.
  • In 360,000 households with children, the kids themselves suffered from very low food security at times.

To put these ideas into extremely simplified terms, it means that, statistically, there's a good chance that, in the US, someone you know, a friend, or family member, or someone in your neighborhood, school, or workplace, has suffered from food insecurity in the past year.  That sucks!

I'm not much of a numbers person myself, but I am a food person--I love cooking, baking, and, of course, eating--so the idea of that many people not being able to enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner (or any dinner) is pretty awful.  There are lots of ways to help people in your community this holiday season, including households with, let's not forget, pets!

Your Local Food Bank

I want to focus first on supporting your local community.  I personally feel more connected to a cause when I know my support is going to those who live near me.  I may not ever meet them, but the feel-goods are still more tangible simply thinking of how close they might be.  To find a local food bank, you can use this handy tool from Feeding America to search by zip code or, internationally, use this page from The Global FoodBanking Network.

Once you've found your food bank, there are many ways to lend support.  The most obvious way, if travel to a drop-off location is feasible for you, is to donate physical foodstuffs.  If you can, call ahead and ask what type of items your food bank is in need of most.  Especially around major holidays, there might be special demand for certain items.  The organization might also have a list of items that aren't as needed at the moment, so knowing to avoid those could also help your donation be as useful as possible.

The next way you can help is to donate money.  Most food banks have simple, secure one-time donation pages on their websites, so you can give support virtually any time, any place.  You may also be able to sign up as a monthly supporter (i.e. automatic donations via your debit or credit card in the amount you designate).  Money donations can be even more useful than food donations since the funds can be used to buy very specific items or even pay for things such as gasoline to fuel food delivery trucks or advertising for a holiday food drive.

Finally, you can support your local food bank by volunteering your time.  There a lot of things that food banks do which require man-power:  sorting and tracking food, keeping in touch with people in need, making deliveries, running food drives, etc.  Some food banks may even allow you to volunteer with a group of friends or family, making the time even more fun and rewarding for everyone involved.

Broader Support

If you don't have a food bank near you or if you would rather support a larger organization, check out these national food bank organizations for your country:

Each food bank website will list plenty of information relevant to your country and lots of ways you can share your support, including things as simple as spreading the word to tasks as ambitious as hosting your own food drive.  Check them out!

Don't Forget the Pets!

When it comes to food security in households with pets, there are no government-tracked statistics.  And, of course, such statistics wouldn't even touch on all the pets in shelters or elsewhere who may suffer from food insecurity or plain ol' hunger.

Mika's Shiba Inu Enjoying a Raw Hide Treat
Sun, my Shiba, loves getting special treats for Thanksgiving!

Pets may not understand or celebrate their humans' holidays, but they still understand what it means to be truly hungry and they still suffer the stress brought on by not knowing when or where they'll get their next meal.  Pet food banks are less common and less easy to find, but they do exist.  I recommend starting the search with your local animal shelter.  Check their website or give them a call and ask if they or another organization they're aware of has a pet food bank.  You can also contact local veterinarians--especially if you're interested in supporting a specific type of pet (cats, dogs, horses, etc.)--who may have contacts for smaller, extremely localized pet food banks or organizations that include food banking among their animal support efforts.  Once you get in contact with your pet food bank, whether online, over the phone, or in person, they'll be able to tell you exactly how you can help.

Whether you're supporting locally or internationally, human or animal, whether you'll celebrate Thanksgiving this November or not, it's as easy as you wish to help ensure everyone can spend this holiday season with a full, happy belly.  Let's make it happen!