Food pantries need us now more than ever. I live in Hamilton County, Indiana, one of the twenty-five wealthiest counties in the country, and our food pantries are desperate for food due to the huge increases in the number of middle-class families in need. Our largest local food pantry is providing non-perishable items to over 50 families a day, and families can only receive these food boxes once a month. According to a recent New York Times article, “food bank operators say the numbers of people seeking their services have been sharply up in the last two years, especially among the elderly.” Yesterday’s Kennebec Morning Sentinel reported that one in ten Americans received food stamps in September, more than ever before.
It is vitally important, especially during the current economic times, that we support the food pantries in our community. Often in rural or suburban areas, especially, the food pantries are the only social services available in the immediate community. I live in a suburban area and the working poor support the wealthy lifestyles of us suburbanites. The food pantries in suburban and rural areas are often overlooked. For example, I live in the north-side suburbs of Indianapolis, but most people, when they are contemplating giving food or donations to the hungry in “our” community only think about the large pantries and shelters in downtown Indianapolis. Many local families are struggling, and they depend on local shelters for help, which is why we need to take responsibility for the “least of these” in our own backyards.
Want to be a part of the solution in your community? Try some of these ideas:
- Check with your food pantry to see what they are most in need of and make a list accordingly. Keep the list with you, and check out the sales on your grocery runs. Keep in mind the benefits of real food.
- Contact your Representative and Senators. The stimulus bill that was recently passed in the House contains a $20 billion increase to food stamp benefits and a $300 million increase for state food stamp administrative costs. Whether or not you agree with the stimulus bill in theory, the fact is that a stimulus bill of some sort will be passed in the next several weeks. Food stamps are spent quickly and on food items, which will spur the economy and feed families that otherwise may go hungry. Let your Congressmen and women know that substantial spending on these types of programs is a necessary part of whatever stimulus bill that is passed.
- Start your own neighborhood or office food drive. We have a friend who emailed his subdivision and told everyone that he would be around the second Saturday of every month to pick up any food that they left on their front porch. He gives his neighbors a virtually painless way to take care of those in need in their community. I placed a box in our office break room with some information about our local food pantry and its needs, and my co-workers appreciate having a convenient way to give. A second-grader at our church convinced his teacher to have a food drive among his class members. The school principal was so inspired by the second-grader’s passion for those in need that he made it an all-school event. Get creative and find your own way to drum up awareness and support for your local food pantry!
- Start a community garden to benefit your local food pantry. If you are a gardener yourself, offer your knowledge and expertise to train families in need to start their own gardens. Teach a man to fish, as they say.