Your local food bank can really use your help, and assisting the organizations that feed your hungry neighbors is easier than you think! #THISISGOOD
Although we often think of helping our food banks during the winter holidays, right now food banks are stocking up for the long, hungry summer. According to Feeding America, 20.5 million children depend on free or reduced-price school meals to keep from going hungry. When schools are closed for the summer, local hunger organizations step in to assist families in need.
Assisting a food bank is one of the easiest ways children can serve their community. They can empathize with kids, just like themselves, who have empty cabinets. Even preschoolers such as my two-year-old Alice, pictured above, can see the shelves and pallets of food stored at a food bank and understand that those packages will be filling the kitchens of kids just like her. Alice may not comprehend the point of lobbying Congress, but she can sure understand the importance of mac’n’cheese and granola bars.
But before you bag up the contents of your own cabinets — you generous Extraordinary Mommy readers, you — take a look at these actions and items that food banks state they need the most. The simplicity and ease of these steps may surprise you!
You are a busy parent, worker, friend and more. You wear so many hats and there are not enough hours in the day for your vast to-do list. If you have several hours a week to spend working at your food bank, awesome! But no one is expecting that of you. What you can easily do is select your local food bank as a volunteer activity or patron cause of your group.
Consider an afternoon of volunteering at the food bank for your next Brownie, Girl or Boy Scout troop activity. Instead of a Sex and the City style brunch with your girlfriends, decide to meet the gals for a morning of assisting at the food bank. My own local diaper bank, DC Diaper Bank, offers Wine Wednesdays in which local women come in to volunteer and BYOB. (Now, that is my kind of volunteerism!)
You can also designate your local food bank as the patron cause of your mother’s group, book club, house of worship or other community organization in which you are involved. Good friends of ours even use their annual backyard Ocktoberfest party as a food drive, encouraging their friends to bring donations for the food bank in lieu of traditional hostess gifts of wine or flowers.
Sure, you can host a food drive at your home or office. There is something awesome about accumulating those stacks of tuna cans and big bags of rice for people in need. But you tech savvy peeps can also host a virtual food drive. Many food banks, such as my closest food bank, The Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, DC, have web tools in place for easy online fundraising and donation accumulation. Instead of physically dropping off food, participants make monetary donations online for specific food drives.
Important note: The money raised through a virtual food drive will go further than your own dollars spent at the grocery store, as non-profit food banks can purchase food at wholesale cost.
As I mentioned above, assisting a food bank is such a wonderful way to teach volunteerism and community empathy to children. To fully experience that teaching moment with your kids, you may want to physically choose foods with your kids and then bring those food donations in-person to your food bank (a GREAT spring break activity!) But before you hit the stores, go online to your food bank’s website and find the list of food items they need the most. You may be surprised by the specificity of their needs, and how food needs vary from region to region.
Over 50 million people struggle with hunger in this country, and it is often a silent plight, affecting our neighbors and children in our kids’ classrooms. These small actions can truly make a big difference in others’ lives, and in our own.