48 Things You Can Do to Help Fight Hunger in America (Slideshow)
#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. 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’Niell will donate $5 to the organization. That $5 can rescue more than 20 pounds of food and give it to hungry New Yorkers.
#3: Hold a Bake Sale
Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry, an initiative presented by Domino Sugar, C&H Sugar, Duncan Hines, and Kmart, is a national fundraiser that encourages people to hold bake sales in their communities and raise money to end childhood hunger. You can donate your own bake sale proceeds online or make a donation toward an existing bake sale.
#6: Create Art with Cans
Canstruction is a charity that holds annual competitions where participants design and build giant structures made of canned foods. All of the canned foods used in the competitions are then donated to local food banks.
#7: Help Rebuild a Life
Part of the Solution (POTS) is an organization in the Bronx, N.Y., that aims to help those in need rebuild their lives. It offers free services including a community dining room and pantry, showers, clothes, haircuts, and a mail system. Since POTS relies on donations and volunteers from the community, you can help by donating food, clothes, and more, by volunteering, or by making a donation.
#8: Support a Future Farmer
With the increasing loss of farmers, farmland, and rural economies, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture works to improve America’s food system by supporting the growth of farmers and sustainable farms. Through their Growing Farmers Initiative, they provide the next generation of farmers with knowledge and hands-on experience in order to improve the farming industry and the accessibility of healthy food. With just a $20 donation, you can help them grow and study more than 500 fruit and vegetable varieties.
#9: Bid on Celebrity-Autographed Merchandise
Every year, WhyHunger auctions off autographed guitars, concert tickets, and more items donated by famous musicians at its Hungerthon, a 28-year-old radio campaign dedicated to raising money to fight hunger. This year, WhyHunger will be featuring merchandise from Pat Benatar, the Goo Goo Dolls, Fallout Boy, Taylor Swift, the New York Giants, and more. The bidding begins Nov. 19 and ends Dec. 10.
#10: Skip Lunch
Each spring, City Harvest sponsors its New York City-wide Skip Lunch Fight Hunger initiative, asking people to brown-bag it for one day a year and then donate the money they would have spent on lunch to the organization. City Harvest calculated that with a mere $10, the amount an average New Yorker spends on lunch, they can feed more than 37 hungry children. You can also help with City Harvest's Daily News Readers Care to Feed the Hungry Food Drive, which collects nonperishable food to stock city food pantries and soup kitchens. The food drive launched this year on Oct. 24 and will run through Jan. 10, 2014.
#11: Label, Sort, and Package
Food Lifeline, an organization dedicated to eradicating hunger in Western Washington, is looking for groups, ranging in size from eight to 60 people, to sign up to help label, sort, and repackage food for distribution at their Shoreline, Wash., warehouse. Food Lifeline provides food to participating banks and shelters locally, but this is an idea that could be replicated anywhere across the country.
#12: Go Out to Dinner
Dine Out Against Hunger, organized by Project Hospitality, is a nationwide effort that began in Staten Island, N.Y, and is now popping up in different cities across the country. Depending on your state’s event date and participating restaurants in your area, up to 20 percent of your bill could go to your local food bank.
#13: Drive and Deliver
Meals on Wheels is always looking for volunteers to act as drivers and runners in cities all over the U.S. and in a number of Canadian cities. All you have to do is pick up food at a central Meals on Wheels (MOW) location, and then deliver it to recipients of the program. MOW works specifically to aid senior citizens that are in need of nourishing meals.
#14: Take a Walk
More than 2,000 communities across the country participate in CROP Hunger Walks each year, raising funds for local hunger-fighting organizations and agencies, as well as international relief efforts. With more than 1,600 walks a year, there are plenty of chances to get involved and work toward their cause of "Ending Hunger One Step at a Time."
#15: Walk or Run
It seems fitting that one of the major hunger-fighting outdoor charity events in California would be located in Stockton, in the heart of the state's Central Valley, source of the vast majority of many of the food crops we consume (including tomatoes, grapes, asparagus, and almonds, but about 230 kinds of produce in all). This year this grassroots organization hosts its ninth annual Run or Walk Against Hunger on Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 28. Events include a 5K run, a 5K walk (not timed), and 10K run, and a quarter-mile (.4K if you want to be consistent) kids' run for children 9 and under. Proceeds, benefiting holiday nutrition programs by the Emergency Food Bank of Stockton/San Joaquin, are generated by entry fees, pledges from participants' friends and family (and from the runners and walkers themselves), and corporate sponsorships.
#16: Lead a Grocery Store Tour
Eating healthy on a budget is possible! Help families learn to cook and shop for healthy, affordable, delicious meals by leading a grocery store tour in your community. Share Our Strength's Cooking Matters at the Store at the empowers families with the skills to compare foods for cost and nutrition. Click here to become a tour leader today. The program is part of the No Kid Hungry campaign to connect kids at risk of hunger with the healthy food they need every day. The campaign also engages the public to make ending childhood hunger a national priority through various programs, partnerships, and projects.
#17: Get Your Hair Cut
Follow the lead of Farrer's Barber Shop in Charlotte, N.C., and create a C.A.N.S. 4 Cuts drive (C.A.N.S. stands for "Caring About Needs in Society"). Partner your hair salon with a local food bank and make a barter system happen for a good cause.
#18: Buy a Bowl of Soup
With Empty Bowls, the premise is simple: Purchase a bowl of soup, in an original bowl created by a local artist, and proceeds will in turn help organizations provide meals to those who need them. The organization, which is more than 20 years old, hosts events year-round at local schools, parks, community centers, etc. Your purchased bowl becomes a keepsake and a reminder that there are always empty bowls to be filled in America.
#19: Watch a Football Game
Blending America’s passions for football, food, and helping others, the Fight Hunger Bowl is an annual post-season college football game that is certified by the NCAA and played at AT&T Park in San Francisco. This year’s kickoff is Dec. 27! All proceeds from the event are donated to local nonprofits.
#20: Share What You Had for Breakfast
In an effort to share 1 million breakfasts with children who need them, Kellogg’s started asking people to share their breakfasts — digitally — and they've surpassed their goal, with 1.5 million breakfasts shared so far. A simple share of what you ate for breakfast on Kellogg's Facebook Page will prompt a donation to Action for Healthy Kids, and a follow-up tweet and another share will do even more. Join the conversation and help promote active and healthy breakfasts for those who need them most.
#21: Get Out and Glean
A religious-based but ecumenical nonprofit charitable organization, the Society of St. Andrew takes as its motto "Gleaning America's Fields — Feeding America's Hungry." Since 1983, the organization has organized networks of volunteers to salvage surplus produce from farms all over the nation. Gleaning, as this activity is known, dates back to biblical times. Each year, more than 30,000 unpaid workers from schools, churches, synagogues, and other institutions around America help collect more than 20 million pounds of fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be wasted.
#22: Pick Some Fruit
Food Forward is a volunteer powered grassroots group dedicated to reconnecting to our food system and making change around urban hunger. They rescue fresh local produce that would otherwise go to waste and donate 100 percent of the fruit to the hungry. Food Forward is always on the lookout for volunteers and neighbors with mature fruit trees and excess fruit or vegetables.
#23: Plant Some Produce
Connecticut Food Bank’s Plant a Row for the Hungry program enables farmers and community gardeners to plant an extra row of produce to donate to local hunger-relief efforts. Plant a Row also works with local farmers' markets, farms, and orchards to collect unsold, wholesome produce for food-assistance programs.
#24: Start (or Join) a Food Drive
No matter where you live in America, chances are there's a food drive going on not far away — and if there isn't, you can start your own. Although traditional food drives are limited to non-perishable goods, you can donate healthier food through You Give Goods. On the organization’s website, you can set up an online food drive at no cost. People buy food on the site to donate to your drive, and You Give Goods delivers the food for you, or you can deliver it to any of the hundreds of ongoing food drives.
#25: Listen to the Radio
You won't have to put on your running shoes to participate in this marathon. The popular Denver radio hosts Dom Testa and Jane London, on Mix 100 (officially KIMN) — named the region's Best Morning DJs — will stay on the air for 24 hours straight this Nov. 14 and 15, trying to beat last year's record of more than $1.15 million raised for the Food Bank of the Rockies. Those donations were turned into more than 4.6 million meals for hungry children and families in the Rocky Mountain region. This will be the 15th year the two personalities have done their 24-hour stint; in that time, they've raised almost $6.9 million in all. Listen to their show, get inspired, and donate on the Food Bank website. You don't even have to live in the Denver area; the station streams live at Mix100.com.
#26: Adopt Farmland
Become a partner in the fight against hunger by adopting an acre of farmland with Adopt-an-Acre, organized by Oregon-based Farmers Ending Hunger. Contributions are used to cover the costs associated with product sorting, canning, and freezing to extend the life of fresh produce, processing wheat to make pancake mix, storing food, and delivering it to the Oregon Food Bank.
#27: Blog About Hunger
WhyHunger launched a new partnership last year with a group of food bloggers committed to the fight against hunger. The program, called Bloggers Without Borders, supports organizations that work to address the injustices of our food system. The team uses their ability to raise awareness in the blogging community to help further the goals of food-related organizations. Read more about what part you can play here.
#28: Get Moving
Move for Hunger takes the hassle out of the moving process and takes care of all the non-perishable food you might otherwise throw away. Their team of dedicated movers will pick up your unopened, non-perishable foods during your moving process, and will deliver them to a local food bank. The organization works with more than 500 moving companies in North America. All you have to do is move.
#29: Dine in Someone Else’s Shoes
To get some perspective and share awareness, attend or take someone to an Oxfam America Hunger Banquet. Guests randomly draw tickets that assign them to tables of different income levels, based on statistics about the number of people living in poverty. Depending on where you sit, you'll receive a full dinner or share sparse portions of rice and water.
#30: Collect Food and Money
Grind Out Hunger is a Santa Cruz, Calif., campaign created by skateboarders that aims to challenge local elementary, middle, and high schools to collect food and raise money for hungry children. The organization focuses on three foundations: empowering, educating, and fighting hunger.
#31: Buy Things at Discount Prices
Moolala is a daily deals website offering deep discounts on everything from 1,600-thread-count sheet sets to customized bobbleheads to iPhone zoom lenses. The site features "deals" by participating nonprofit organizations which allow buyers to donate to a specific cause, such as Children's HopeChest, which receives gifts through Moolala that are donated to children in need.
#32: Go Bowling
Maybe you've already taken part in one of Project Bread’s Walks for Hunger, dedicated to ending hunger in Massachusetts, but have you gotten involved in their Strike Out Hunger Bowl-a-thon? Register as a team captain and then recruit friends, family, and co-workers as teammates with the goal of raising $650 or more per lane. Then, go out and bowl on Nov. 12 this year!
#33: Collect and Distribute
Volunteer with The Hunger Coalition, a nonprofit organization that, among other hunger relief goals, aims to provide kid-friendly, healthy, single-serving food items to children who otherwise may not have enough to eat when outside the safety net of school meal programs. You can collect food, pack bags, or offer to distribute the food to participating schools and students in your community.
#34: Watch a Food Fight
DC Central Kitchen’s Capital Food Fight pits great chefs against each other in Iron Chef-like tournaments using secret ingredients. There are also tastings of signature dishes from dozens of Washington, D.C.'s hottest restaurants. This year on Nov. 11, chefs José Andrés and Carla Hall will be hosting the event, which benefits DC Central Kitchen's job training, meal distribution, and support for local food systems.
#35: Buy Fair Trade Stuff
The Hunger Site is an online activism website that sells fair trade items, including seasonal home décor, African products, and everyday goods, to benefit participating charities like Feeding America, Millennium Promise, and Mercy Corps. Proceeds are split between the organizations and go toward fighting hunger in more than 74 countries around the world.
#36: Make a Donation
Make a donation to Wholesome Wave. Through partnerships with more than 60 community-based organizations, Wholesome Wave programs increase access to affordable, healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables for underserved communities. The organization is active in 28 states and the District of Columbia, with nearly 400 participating farm-to-retail venues. Their Double Value Coupon Program (DVCP) uses private donations to double the value of federal food assistance benefits when spent at farmers' markets.
#37: Collect Money at Your Party
MAZON, which means "food" or "sustenance" in Hebrew, is a national Jewish organization dedicated exclusively to fighting hunger. Include MAZON in your celebrations, be they weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, anniversaries, or birthdays, by integrating MAZON's donation request forms into your party, or by donating 3 percent of the cost of the celebration to the organization.
#38: Rock Out
This vigorous locally focused organization, New Orleans Artists Against Hunger and Homelessness, (NOAAHH) for short, was founded by New Orleans music deities Allen Toussaint and Aaron Neville in 1985. Throughout the year, the organization stages a number of concerts and other events to benefit more than 40 local agencies that serve the needy in this gastronomic paradise of a city that ironically also has the second-highest food hardship rate (defined as a lack of money for families to buy food they need) in the nation. NOAAHH's major annual event used to be a black-tie-optional affair called Backstage, featuring catered food and top musical stars (past participants have included not just Toussaint and Neville but Dr. John, Irma Thomas, Little Freddie King, and Jimmy Buffett). While they haven't nailed down dates for their upcoming events, a representative from the organization mentions that they’re working on scheduling them for some time next spring.
#39: Be a Food Runner
Food Runners volunteers pick up excess perishable and prepared food from restaurants, caterers, bakeries, hospitals, event planners, corporate cafeterias, and hotels in San Francisco and deliver more than 15 tons of food a week to shelters and neighborhood programs that feed the hungry. Visit their site to become a food runner and work to alleviate hunger.
#40: Bake Bread
If you are a bread baker and have leftovers at the end of the day, get your organization involved in Panera's Operation Dough-Nation. In this program, unsold bakery products are packaged at the end of each day and donated to local food banks and charities.
#41: Stay Updated Online
Keep up to date with projects and efforts on the Feeding America website to join in the mission "to feed America's hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger." Even just a $1 donation can provide the equivalent of eight meals to hungry people.
#42: Help Walmart
Walmart and Feeding America launched "Fighting Hunger Together" in 2010, a $2 billion commitment through 2015 to help fight hunger in America. They're combating the issue by using their size and resources to provide nutritious food to those in need and by granting funding to nonprofits through the Walmart Foundation. Learn more about how you can help here.
#44: Read a Blog
A key to fighting hunger in America is creating awareness about the issue. Blogs like Second Harvest Heartland's blog.2harvest.org work to keep Americans informed on major issues and provide inspiration for getting involved. Check out the site for programs, opportunities, and ideas that you can bring to your own city.
#45: Celebrate Food Day
Though Food Day has passed, the Food Day website has tons of ideas and ways for everyone to get involved in ending U.S. hunger. But you can make any day a personal Food Day. Visit the site to check out events around the country and learn about how you can make your own. With opportunities for everything from hosting to volunteering to sharing, you are sure to find a way to join in the action.
#46: Use an App
The Lunchbox Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to supplying daily meals to orphaned children in South Africa, recently launched Feedie, an app that transforms a photo of your food into real food. At a participating restaurant, customers can take a photo of their food and upload it to Feedie. For every uploaded photo, the restaurant will make a donation to The Lunchbox Fund, which will deliver real food to a child in South Africa. So far more than 75 restaurants are Feedie partners and more than 100 more have expressed interest.
Tango Tab is an app that gives users access to local deals at their favorite restaurants. Not only is the app free, but the best part is that every time you claim an offer from the app, TangoTab donates a meal to local food banks and hunger-related charities. The app's tagline says it best: "When you eat, they eat."
WhyHunger is releasing "John Lennon: The Bermuda Tapes" on Nov. 5, 2013, an interactive app that tells the story of the making of John Lennon's "Double Fantasy" album, with all proceeds benefiting WhyHunger.
#47: Rescue Excess Food
Table to Table, a community-based food rescue program, collects prepared and perishable food that might otherwise be wasted in Northeast New Jersey. The organization is the first and only in the area to act as a food rescue program, directly redistributing foods to more than 50 agencies throughout the area.
#48: Come Up with Your Own Ideas
Be a trailblazer. Come up with your own ideas on how to effect change and feed the hungry, whether it's in your own community or across the country. Comment on this story with your best ideas on how to fight hunger.