As the holiday season approaches, most of us prepare to be overwhelmed with festive parties and family dinners. For millions of people, though, the holidays just mean more hunger. In 2015, it was estimated that more than 42 million Americans lived in food-insecure households. The very real and preventable existence of hunger in America — and worldwide — is something that should be on the forefront of everyone’s minds, not just during the holidays, of course, but somehow especially now.
At The Daily Meal, our motto is “All things food and drink.” It’s important that we use our platform to shine a light on all food topics, not just the pleasures of good eating and the overabundance so many of us enjoy but also the scarcity of food in so many people’s lives.
Knowledge is power, but to be aware is not enough. We need to challenge ourselves to not look the other direction, but rather to take action to address food insecurity issues. There are so many small things that can be done that will add up to make a huge difference.
We have reached out to family and friends and scoured the internet to compile a list of 51 things we can do to help fight hunger. They range from the seemingly insignificant (add an extra $1 to your restaurant check) to the quirky (create art with canned food) to the potentially life-changing (dine in someone else’s shoes at a hunger banquet). There are easy ways to help, like simply using your computer or purchasing things you would normally like cereal or holiday gifts. There are also more ambitious projects to become involved in, like leading a grocery store tour or creating a community vegetable garden.
This list is meant to be a jumping-off point to get your ideas flowing. We’d love to hear your feedback and learn about the organizations you’re involved with, or let us know if there are unique opportunitys in your town.
At the end of the day, we are all connected. Let the approaching holiday season be a turning point — a reminder that hunger is a year-round issue. When it comes to making a difference, every little bit helps.
Action Against Hunger brings together various establishments through a campaign called "Restaurants Against Hunger." All you have to do is dine out at a participating restaurant and elect to add $1 to your check. Restaurants also donate a percentage of sales to a child in need. Show your participation by sharing a picture of your meal on Instagram, using #RestaurantsXHunger. Include in your photo a prominent “X” to convey your support: use utensils, vegetables, breadsticks…whatever you like!
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 all to the Oregon Food Bank.
The Capital Food Fight is an annual event to help end hunger. More than 75 of Washington, D.C.’s best restaurants offer tastings, while spectators watch local top chefs compete in a live onstage battle hosted and judged by the biggest names in the culinary world. Celebrating its 13th year, the event is the brainchild of celebrity chef José Andrés (chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup), with 100 percent of event proceeds benefitting the DC Central Kitchen.
Use free online coupons from sites such as Coupons.com to purchase a surplus of goods, and donate the extra to your local food pantry. This way, when you score a deal on multiple cans of soup, you’ll be helping to feed those who really need it.
The Hunger Site is an activism website that sells fair trade items, including seasonal home décor 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 the United States, as well as in more than 74 countries around the world. Between 3 and 50 percent of the retail price of every item bought on The Hunger Site store will be given to their charity partners.
Mazon, which means “food” or “sustenance” in Hebrew, is a national Jewish organization dedicated exclusively to fighting hunger. Include Mazon’s ideals 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 a percentage of the cost of the celebration to the organization.
Canstuction is a charity that holds annual competitions in which 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.
To get some perspective and spread awareness, attend or take a friend 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 anything ranging from a full dinner to a sparse portion of rice and water to share. An average of 500 Oxfam Hunger Banquets are held every year in cities across the U.S. It’s estimated that over 850,000 people have attended one of these events. Visit oxfamamerica.org to find a hunger banquet near you.
The gift of an animal through Heifer International can create lasting change in a hungry family’s life. Giving an animal is like giving someone a small business, providing wool, milk, eggs, and more. A mere $60 buys a trio of rabbits, and $120 buys a family a goat, sheep, or pig. Animal donations can provide families a hand up, increasing access to medicine, school, food, and a sustainable livelihood.
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.
Volunteer by donating the time normally spent on your lunchbreak to Meals on Wheels programs across the country. Deliver nutritious meals during your lunch hour to seniors who can no longer cook for themselves or who are unable to get out of their houses or apartments.
Every time you buy a specially marked bottle of French’s mustard or ketchup, the company will donate the equivalent of one meal to a person in need. Through their We Promise initiative, they plan to donate a minimum of 12 million meals.
Every day, pounds upon pounds of grain are used to feed animals in factory farms. It takes about 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of edible meat. The grain that is fed to farm animals could instead be donated to help feed the world’s hungry, and there would be plenty left over. To learn more, read Francis Moore Lappé’s fascinating book, Diet for a Small Planet.
By donating to The Hunger Coalition, you can help feed undernourished babies. The Infant Formula Initiative began in 2005 to help mothers who were not able to provide their newborns with enough to eat. The Hunger Coalition has distributed the equivalent of 17,745 bottles of infant formula to babies in need.
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. Its team of dedicated movers will pick up your unopened, non-perishable foods during your moving process and deliver them to a local food bank. The organization works with more than 600 moving companies in North America.
A lot of us spend far too much time on Pinterest already, so let’s make a difference while we pin. Share ideas with others and create your own movement to fight hunger. Pin to boards about events in your city, share an inspiring story, or share videos of hunger fighters.
A religious-based 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 arranged networks of volunteers to salvage surplus produce, including crops left in the field after harvest, 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 food.
Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry brings fresh meat and vegetables to the needy. Those who are living without food security often don’t eat fresh meat because it's too expensive, but FHFH is looking to change that. All meats (game that’s hunted by their volunteers) and vegetables harvested by this organization are donated to soup kitchens and local aids. Sign up and get involved at the FHFH website.
Grow food locally by getting involved in community gardening projects. Not only does this project help provide food for your neighborhood, it also teaches kids how to garden and be self-sufficient. All food grown can be given back to community members who need it or donated to local food banks. The American Community Gardening Association can help you find a garden and get started.
Bake up sweet treats to raise funds to help stop child hunger with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. You can also visit their website to find existing bake sales in your neighborhood.
Nourish: Food + Community is an important film that has won awards and recognition for its illustration of the role food plays in the world and how it is connected to biodiversity, climate change, public health, social justice, and our personal lives. By hosting a screening of the film, or similar films regarding food and hunger, you can help start a conversation about food and sustainability in your community.
Many employers will match the donations that you give, which will effectively double the contribution to ending hunger. But don’t just stop at your work place: Talk to neighboring businesses and get the entire community involved in the fight.
Join the World Food Programme’s Online Community to receive newsletters, updates, email alerts, and information on opportunities to help end hunger, not only in the United States but worldwide.
Food Lifeline is an organization dedicated to eradicating hunger in western Washington State. They are always looking for individuals and groups to help repackage food for their food pantries and also for help with community events.
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 tours empower families by arming them with the skills to compare foods for cost and nutrition.
As the hunger coalition wisely says, a little planning now will make a big difference for generations to come. For more information on including The Hunger Coalition in your will, visit The Hunger Coalition website. They can help you realize your philanthropic vision and leave a legacy of wholesome food and hope for future generations.
We all need to gain experience and earn a paycheck, so why not do it while making a difference at the same time? Visit Alliance to End Hunger’s career page to learn about job opportunities and internships. Their members include corporations, universities, foundations, faith-based groups, and non-profits, to name a few.
Food Forward is a volunteer-powered grassroots group based in Southern California dedicated to reconnecting to our food system and making change in urban hunger issues. 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 an excess fruit or vegetables.
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.
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.
There are many runs and walks that raise funds to benefit charities that fight hunger. You could participate in one nearly every holiday, all year long. “Turkey trots” are popular on Thanksgiving morning, with walkers and runners attending various races in cities all over the country. If you’re near Stockton, California, sign up for the 12th annual Run or Walk Against Hunger on Thanksgiving morning.
Instead of throwing out the lasagna you couldn’t finish, share the leftovers with a neighbor or someone in need on your street. Rising food prices are causing many families to go without, so put your Tupperware to good use.
Many of us possess specialized skills that could be put to great use at food pantries and homeless shelters. Not just cooking but website and graphic design, accounting, writing, and social media skills are all needed in the fight against hunger. Think outside the box and come up with a list of ways that you and your friends could donate your skills to benefit hunger organizations. Serving hot meals and passing out canned food are very helpful and important, but there are lots of ways to make a difference. Share your special talent.
Making a difference happens one person at a time. You can pledge to fight hunger this year by starting a petition on Change.org. For each signature you receive, ask for the pledge of a donation. The more signatures you get, a greater difference will be made in the worldwide initiative to end hunger.
No matter where you live in America, chances are there's a food drive going on nearby — and if there isn't, you can start your own. Although traditional food drives are limited to non-perishable goods, you can also donate healthier food such as fruit and vegetables 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.
For every quiz question you answer correctly on freerice.com, 10 grains of rice will be donated to the United Nations World Food Programme. If you get an answer wrong, you’re given an easier question, and if you get one right, you’re given a harder one. This brain-teaser is a fun, simple way to give back.
Thousands of 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. There are plenty of chances to get involved and work toward their cause of "ending hunger one step at a time."
Part of the Solution (POTS) is a Bronx, New York-based organization that aims to help those in need rebuild their lives. Use your party or event to benefit POTS. They help make it easy with ideas and resources. POTS offers many important, free services including a community dining room, food pantry, legal clinic, shower facilities, and holiday meals and gifts.
TangoTab is an app that gives users access to local deals at their favorite restaurants. Not only is the app free, 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 supports many programs, including Artists Against Hunger & Poverty, which allows the artistic and music community to use their voices to support the movement to end hunger and poverty. More than $13 million has been raised to support organizations fighting hunger in communities all across the world.
iStockphoto / Thinkstock
Thanksgiving and Christmas are popular times to volunteer, because it’s difficult to see people going hungry around the holidays. But food banks and homeless shelters need an extra hand 365 days a year, not just in November and December. Pick an off-season day to dedicate yourself to lending a hand. You could even start a tradition of volunteering every year on your birthday or on the anniversary of a family member or beloved pet’s passing, in their honor.
Let your voice be heard by authoring an op-ed article or writing a letter to the editor of your local paper. Urge lawmakers to reject subsidies that instigate the overproduction of grains like corn, which flood the market and promote overall lower grain prices. This bodes unfavorably for poor communities who are at the mercy of world market prices.
Email, write, or call your members of Congress to urge them to address food insecurity issues among current and former service members. By visiting Mazon, you can fill out an online letter to be sent to Congress and help to end hunger for military families who struggle to put food on the table.