My family and I helped deliver groceries to families in need recently and, in doing so, I learned something: hunger doesn’t look like what I expected. The families we delivered to weren’t all homeless or even jobless. They were all doing their best and hanging on by a thread due to any number of factors that took away or reduced their income — and a box of groceries being delivered made a huge difference in their week.
I also learned that, shockingly, more than 20% of families with kids experience food insecurity. That’s one in five, you guys. A family in your child’s school, without a doubt, is struggling to get dinner on the table tonight. If you’d like to help, here are some ideas for how you and your kids can help fight hunger in your community.
Donate to a school lunch fund
Call your local neighborhood school and ask if you can make a donation to the lunch accounts of kids who are struggling to make ends meet. Giving those kids with negative balances the gift of not worrying that they’ll experience school lunch shaming is huge, and so easy to do.
Deliver meals to families in need
Delivering meals is a really easy way to get kids involved. You do the loading and driving, then the kids get a chance to ring the bell, be friendly, and see the face of the person they’re helping. If you do this consistently, you’ll even develop some sweet friendships with the people you’re serving. Every city has local organizations that you can find through a simple Google search, or look for a national chapter of Meals on Wheels.
Shop the BOGO sales…for charity
When your grocery store has a buy-one, get-one sale, buy two items with the plan to put one in a donation box for charity. Once you fill the box, take your kids down to the food pantry to donate the extra items.
Sponsor a family in need
Contact your local aid organizations — anything from refugee assistance programs to the Salvation Army to your child’s school guidance counselor — to find out if they have families you can help on a regular basis until they get back on their feet. You and your kids can play “secret Santa” by anonymously having pizza delivered, dropping off grocery gift cards in their mailbox, using your grocery delivery service to bring them groceries, or leaving a box of home cooked treats on their doorstep. Just be sure to check with the organization about the best way to go about it and to use discretion when talking to the kids to keep your efforts helpful and respectful, especially of the family’s privacy.
Send snacks for the classroom
Every once in a while, send in a box of healthy snacks for your child’s teacher to keep at her desk to distribute to kids who come to school without a snack or enough food. My kids’ teachers often supply food to kids in need out of their own money, so I know they really appreciate it when parents who can afford it pitch in with extra snacks too.
Encourage your favorite restaurant to use MealConnect
Feeding America recently launched a new program called MealConnect that enables businesses to post their untouched, unused food waste when they close for the night. Within minutes, Feeding America will coordinate the logistics to have the food delivered to nearby food insecure neighbors. Genius, right?
It’s a partnership with Google that’s just starting — in fact, it’s not available in my zip code yet — but I think it’s a brilliant way to use tech to fight hunger. And the more people who request it, the quicker it will come to your neighborhood.
Host a food drive
The next time you’re planning a party — hey, any excuse, right? — ask your guests to bring canned goods, peanut butter, cereal, or other pantry items to donate to a local non-profit that’s working to fight hunger in your area. Check with the charity first: some only accept certain items.