Today is April Food Day 2010! It’s a day where bloggers unite to bring awareness to the hunger issue here in our country and ways that people are being served through their local food banks, pantries, soup kitchens, etc…
Feeding America is the nation’s largest charitable hunger relief organization. Feeding America supports a network of 206 food banks in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Their goal is to build the support they need to feed 1 million more people each year, to significantly increase participation in federal nutrition programs, and to inspire the public to take action.
There are many statistics about hunger in our nation and about what a large community is doing to take care of the problem. We find sometimes these numbers can be overwhelming and make an individual feel helpless. But, we believe in action!
Some of you have followed us on our “underground” adventures. Here at LoveFeast Table we call them LoveBombs. We have fed skaters, workers in the sex industry and the homeless. We believe anyone, no matter where you live, how old you are, can LoveBomb. It doesn’t have to be a big event.
I called a good friend of mine, Terrill who has organized teams of teens for years to serve at Food Banks here in Maryland and also in New York. I had the privilege of serving in the Bronx at the New York Food Bank with her and a team a number of years ago. It was amazing to see the inside of a Food Bank that serves so many people!
I asked her for advice for those who would want to organize taking a group to serve at a Food Bank.
Here’s what she had to say:
“I recommend organizing a small team of 10-12 people. At the Maryland Food Bank you have to be 16 years old to serve. The first thing you need to do, is call the Food Bank and make an appointment to come in and serve. Don’t just randomly show up. There are actually a lot of people who serve and the Food Bank prefers to know who and how many are coming. Also, ask the Food Bank to arrange a small orientation with you and your team the day you arrive. They will spend 10-15 minutes giving you some facts about how many people they serve and who their main population is. You will spend time sorting cans and boxes. You’ll remove dented cans or boxes that are damaged. They will give you clear instructions on how to sort these, so don’t be afraid you will have to do it on your own. Also, I have found that sometimes my teams go in with an idea of how to do it better. I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to remember you are going to serve the Food Bank. These guys have a system that works and that they’ve been using for years. Encourage your team to not try and do it their own way, but to come in and serve the way the Food Bank needs.
Another thing we have done before going, is to run our own food drive. One time, we were going to serve at a Food Pantry in the afternoon. We took our team to a local grocery store. (We got permission beforehand.) And collected non perishables from customers. We filled 20 bags of groceries. So, when our team arrived at the Food Bank, they didn’t arrive empty handed.”
Terrill went on to explain that there are also many other groups you can serve. There are food pantries, organizations, churches, mosques and soup kitchens that always need volunteers. Some of these organizations do their own food drives and don’t depend on the larger Food Banks. They always need volunteers. Again, call ahead of time and see when you can best serve! There are also food pantries for pets!
It really is easy to make a difference. With a little investigation and planning you could put together a team of your kid’s friends, your supper club, your neighbors, and spend a few hours helping to end hunger in our country. I encourage you, if you’ve never served this way, give it a try! I personally like serving at the local establishments where you will meet actual people who are receiving much needed food. Take the time to sit with one or two people. Listen. Ask questions. Hear their stories. It will put a name and face to the problem that plagues millions in our nation. (One quick fact: In 2008, 49.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 32.4 million adults and 16.7 million children.)
Terrill ended our interview with this. “One of the best quotes I’ve heard from one of my teens was this: ‘I was so nervous at first, but then I realized, this is so easy and I can do it anytime!'”