Because we live in one of the world’s wealthiest nations, it’s astonishing that so many people here — children, families, and the elderly — are malnourished or simply don’t get enough to eat. In 2010 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), 17.6 million households were food insecure, the highest number ever recorded in the U.S. In a country that prides itself on fairness and equal opportunity, how can there be so many people who are hungry? While we may not know the exact answer, there are hundreds of things that we can do to help.
A couple of our editors used to work for a website called Always Hungry NY (since folded into The Daily Meal). The sense of that name was of always having an appetite for more and better gustatory delights. For all too many people, though, "always hungry" describes not a pleasant state of craving but a harsh reality.
The Daily Meal is dedicated to good things to eat and drink, on every level, from street food to sublime cuisine, but we frankly 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." With the weather taking a cold turn and the holidays, with their attendant feasting, fast approaching, things can become even more difficult for those less fortunate.
We were inspired when we read that last year, Oct. 24 was designated as Food Day by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, with one of its goals being 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 48 ideas for things that almost any of us can do right now to start making a difference. Some are as simple as clicking a link, sending a tweet, or listening to music; others are as time-consuming and collaborative as planting and tending a garden or holding a bake sale. There are products to buy, places to donate, things to watch. You can even make a contribution by going bowling, getting a haircut, or taking a quiz. All these actions will, to a greater or lesser extent, put food on somebody's table. They aren't answers to the question posed in the first paragraph. They aren't definitive solutions to the problem. But they're a start.
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 worst 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.
Colman Andrews is The Daily Meal's editorial director. Follow him on Twitter @Colmanandrews.
Research by Haley Willard, assistant editor. Follow her on Twitter at @haleywillard.