Food insecurity (hunger) is a major public health concern in the United States impacting nearly 50 million people and is especially crushing to children. Before I became the president of The Al Beech West Side Food Pantry, I did not understand the true face of hunger. I thought food insecurity was associated with people living in chronic poverty. I was wrong.
The truth is many people live a paycheck away from making the hard decision between electricity, medication, and gas for food. The loss of a family member, birth of a child, reduced wages, a natural disaster, and even the break down of a car can put a family over the edge.
Serving clients for 5 years, I witness that childhood hunger is real in our communities. The stereotypically visualization of hunger includes children with bloated bellies, sunken eyes, and skinny limbs. In the United States, food insecurity is an invisible epidemic because it is often associated with a normal weight.
If we want to curb our nation’s food insecurity epidemic, we must collectively change the way we view, treat, and talk about poverty in the United States. Here are simple ideas to transform hunger in the United States.
5 Ways to help in your community
1. Donate your unique passion
Reach out to your local food bank and pantry to donate your passion. While it is great to have people available to pack food bags for client pick up, it is even better to have people with passion. Here are some past donations full of passion:
- A canvas painting of fresh produce by a high school student to help raise money in an auction
- Elementary students practicing their instruments during client pick up. We have experienced the sounds of flutes, guitars, and pianos while clients picked up their orders!
- A college student brought her gift of photography to help with social media promotion of the bi-weekly farmer’s market (see below).
- A senior gentleman built us new shelves to ensure safety of our volunteers.
2. Organize a food sorting play date
Call your local food pantry to determine when there is a food donation being delivered. Let them know you want to organize a volunteer day for kids. Older kids can inspect the food for expired product and damaged goods. Younger kids can organize the food by product and the parents can carry any heavy items to storage.
3. Know the best foods to donate
When donating foods know which foods are the most nourishing but self-stable. Food pantries appreciate canned foods such as tuna, chicken, beef, salmon, peanut butter, beans, fruits, and vegetables that contain no added salt or sugar.
4. Donate garden surplus
Even if you have one cucumber drop it off! If everyone gave just one cucumber, there would be more than enough to go around. Remember- very piece counts and is worth your time.
5. Transform thoughts through compassion
Learn about food insecurity by listening to stories around you. If you have been on a food assistance program yourself, think and refer to it as a positive influence in your life. For example- if you participated in the National School Lunch Program, consider how it helped you succeed in school. Would you have been able to concentrate on your spelling test? Would you be where you are today, if you did not have access to the program?
Clancy’s Mission & Initiatives
My mission is to decrease the stigma associated with food assistance programs in the hopes that more families will take advantage of programs such as food stamps and WIC. Food assistance programs give parents access to better food options and decrease the stress caused by the fear of running out of food.
Cooking with Clancy website
Cooking with Clancy is a website where parents can find affordable food recipes and learn how to eat nourishing foods on a strict budget. Parents learn how to cook the most nourishing and affordable foods along with timesaving kitchen tips. For access to her FREE meal plans click on the box below.
Children Feeding Children Greenhouse Project
The grassroots project is an effort to fight local hunger with dignity and fresh produce. The greenhouse is housed a local elementary school where the students cultivate transplants from seeds. The transplants are then donated to the youth-based organizations for edible landscaping and community gardens who donate the harvest back to the food pantry. To learn more, please email me at email@example.com.
Bi-Weekly Farmer’s Market
Each week the food pantry hosts a free farmer’s market for the food pantry recipients, volunteers, and other organizations associated the food pantry. Allowing community members and food pantry guests to take produce together creates an environment of community and recipe sharing while creating dignity.
One Pot Meat Spaghetti Recipe
One Pot Meat Spaghetti is not only tasty but it is very affordable at $1.25 per serving. It is a featured dish in our meal plans that are complete with cooking strategies and shopping lists. Visit Cooking with Clancy Meal Planning to learn how to access the meal plans that feed a family of four on roughly $125/week.
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup onions, chopped
4 cups chicken broth or water
1 can tomato sauce (15 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1.5 tsp. salt or to taste
3 tsp. italian seasoning or pizza seasoning
16 ounces spaghetti noodles (broken)
1 cup Parmesan cheese (shredded)
Brown meat and onions in a large stock pot over medium-high heat until fully cooked.
Stir in chicken broth, tomato sauce, and spices; bring to a boil.
Add spaghetti, cover pan, and simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking. Depending on type of pasta, you may need to add more broth or water as needed for desired consistency.
When spaghetti is tender, top with grated cheese.
Refrigerate leftovers with in 2-3 hours.
About the Author, Clancy Harrison
Clancy Harrison MS, RD, LDN is a sought after speaker for Congressional Briefings, live TV segments, and professional seminars. Clancy is an award winning author of Feeding Baby and Past President of Northeast Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.