It’s difficult to imagine that in America, a country that prides itself on fairness and equal opportunity, there are children who don’t get enough to eat, families that are starving, and elderly people who are malnourished because of an inability to pay for healthy food.
In 2013, a shocking 17.5 million households were food-insecure, representing 49.1 million Americans total. The thought of so many people just in the U.S. suffering from a lack of food and nutrition is disheartening. Fortunately, there are hundreds of hunger relief organizations and plenty that we can do to help.
The Daily Meal is dedicated to good things to eat and drink — on every level, from street food to haute cuisine — but frankly we don't spend as much time as we should thinking about those to whom, as Paul Simon once put it, "the evening meal is negotiable, if there is one." As the weather takes a cold turn and the holidays (with their attendant feasting) fast approach, things can become even more difficult for those less fortunate.
We were inspired to hear that October 24 had been designated Food Day by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and that one of its goals is to "expand access to food and alleviate hunger," so we decided to think about ways in which we might help do just that.
We searched the Internet and canvassed friends and colleagues and came up with 52 ideas for ways that almost any of us can start making a difference right now. Some are as simple as clicking a link, sending a tweet, or listening to the radio; others are as time-consuming and collaborative as planting and tending a garden or making a movie about sustainability. There are products to buy, donations to send, films to watch. You can even make a contribution by going bowling, using an app, or taking a quiz. All these actions will, to a greater or lesser extent, lead to more food on somebody's table. They aren't definitive solutions to the problem. But they're a start. (If a locally focused program from the list below appeals to you but isn't in your area, contact them: maybe you can start your own version.)
There's a corny old saying about how it's better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness. We'd add that it's better to deliver dinner for Meals on Wheels or text a cellphone donation to Imagine: There's No Hunger or support farm-food processing through Adopt-an-Acre than to simply eat another meatball slider or chutoro-maki or sole meunière without a second thought for those to whom hunger is an always thing.
What does that old Sunday morning PSA say? "The more you know..."? You may be surprised to find out which 10 American cities are suffering the most from food hardship and which prominent celebrities are doing their part to turn things around. Learn more by reading 10 American Cities That Are Going Hungry and find some inspiration in the unselfish acts of others in 10 Celebrities Fighting Hunger in America.
But don't stop with what you'll find here. There are hundreds upon hundreds of other things you can do to make a difference. If you're actively involved in hunger relief in ways we haven't mentioned, know of other worthwhile programs, or just have some good ideas that you think can be acted upon, let us know in the comments below.
1. Buy Everyday Products
By purchasing a Project 7 pack of gum, a T-shirt, a bottle of water, or other products that you probably already buy regularly, you can give someone a meal or a night of shelter or clothes to wear. Through the sale of everyday items at retailers like 7-Eleven, Target, and Walmart, Project 7 enables consumers to give back to areas in need around the globe.
2. Tweet, Hashtag, and Retweet
To create awareness and invite New Yorkers to join the conversation about hunger in New York, City Harvest launched the social media campaign feedourpeople. You can help spread the word by tweeting about it. Read about City Harvest’s food rescue work and news coverage on hunger issues, view the profiles of New Yorkers who help feed the hungry, then tweet about it using the hashtag #feedourpeople. For every #feedourpeople tweet and retweet, City Harvest supporters Daniel and Mitra O’Neill will donate $5 to the organization. That $5 can rescue more than 20 pounds of food and give it to hungry New Yorkers.
Haley Willard is The Daily Meal's assistant editor. Follow her on Twitter at @haleywillard.