Special to the Philanthropy Journal
By Peter Werbicki
During the month of September, food banks around the country work to educate our communities on the reality of hunger in the United States, and to advocate for the people we serve every day. Launched in 2008 by Feeding America as a way to address the hunger crisis that grew during the Great Recession, Hunger Action Month is a call to action, and a time of sharing resources and information to help people realize that they can help ensure that friends and neighbors are not going hungry.
We’ll start by sharing this statistic: For 1 in 6 people in the state of North Carolina, and 1 in 8 nationally—including children, seniors, and veterans—the reality of operating on empty is a daily obstacle to overcome. Hunger does not discriminate, and it impacts every aspect of daily life: health, education, work skills, and finances.
We see many families working two to three jobs and still do not earn enough to make ends meet. Too often, our friends and neighbors must make choices between childcare and breakfast, between eating and paying for rent and utilities, or between food and life-saving healthcare. No child should have to worry when he or she will eat again, and no parent (or grandparent) should have to skip a meal, water down drinks, or risk not paying a bill, so they can put food on the table for children. And yet these are the stories that we, and food banks around the country, hear every day.
No matter where you live, lack of food is detrimental to your community’s progress. But there are ways to help!
Seek out partners
Hunger Action Month is a perfect time to make connections with other organizations in your sphere that might be fighting hunger. At the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina (the Food Bank), we bring in partners in healthcare, food service, and education to learn about new opportunities to collaborate with corporations, businesses, and other nonprofits. Some ideas include holding a roundtable discussion or launching new projects that serve populations in need in multiple ways. Feeding America has 200 member food banks, partners with thousands of smaller food pantries and soup kitchens, and there are a million different ways your organization can partner together.
Your organization can take part in the national messaging taking place in September by engaging in the social media conversations. By tagging your local food bank in posts, using #HungerActionMonth, and sharing with your audience the impact that hunger has, you are helping to amplify the urgent need in your community. Sharing content is also a great way to spread the word. And who knows – your organization might even get retweeted! The Food Bank will be posting videos and blog posts throughout the month that provide education on the issue of hunger and working to raise 1 million meals during the month. Sharing your favorite is an easy way to spread the word.
Volunteering is a concrete way to fight hunger. There are opportunities for individuals and organizations to join with others in the community to do things like sort produce, or serve breakfast at a soup kitchen, or even teach a cooking class. The Food Bank couldn’t operate without the support of our volunteers, who more than double our staff. We also can help support those who’d like to host a virtual food drive to raise funds and awareness. Your organization can work on team building by volunteering or setting up a friendly food drive competition between departments.
Awareness, education, and calls to action are the goals of Hunger Action Month and are vital to the work food banks across the state, and the country, are doing to deliver healthy food in our communities, as well as provide opportunities to help individuals with pathways to stronger futures. The power of partnerships is amplified during national initiatives like Hunger Action Month. With the support of this incredible community, we can continue to find solutions for those facing hunger.
Peter Werbicki is the President & CEO of the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.