By Kimberly Reed, Executive Director of Foundation, with contributions from Lauren Hogan, from the University of Maryland, College Park, Dietetic Internship.
For many Americans, Thanksgiving Day officially kicks off the holiday feasting season with oven-roasted turkeys, creamy casseroles, and delectable desserts. In addition to gathering for traditional holiday festivities, many Americans will be giving thanks by serving their communities and volunteering at local food banks and soup kitchens. The need for volunteers and donations is greatest during the holiday season as many people continue to struggle with food insecurity during these harsh economic times.
More than 48 million people in the U.S. will experience hunger during the year, which equates to one in seven Americans. In 2010, the majority of individuals experiencing food insecurity fell into the USDA Economic Research Service’s definition of “low food secure.” Family members of low food secure homes may eat less varied diets, participate in Federal food assistance programs or rely on community food banks to prevent a disruption in their eating patterns. Though food insecurity remained relatively stable from 2009 to 2010, there are still millions of people who depend on additional assistance to provide meals for their families on a consistent basis.
Food banks and kitchens make an impact by providing food and meals to families that are in need. At the national level, the Feeding America food bank distributes three billion pounds in food supplies that reach nearly 37 million people through local food banks yearly. In the local D.C. Metropolitan area, the Capital Area Food Bank rallies around its 14,000 volunteers who distributed 30 million pounds of food last year. Across the country, food banks provide an easy way for volunteers to donate their time and be involved in the community.
Banking beyond our Borders
Food banking isn’t just an American issue. Nearly one billion people are suffering from hunger worldwide. One-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption is lost or wasted each year. A recent FAO study, “Global Food Losses and Food Waste,” shines a spotlight on the approximately 1.3 billion tons of food that is lost or wasted in both industrialized and developing countries. Findings of the study suggest that much of what is grown, processed, and manufactured is never consumed because of logistical challenges, failure to harvest, post-harvest loss, waste, and inadequate legal and tax incentives for donations.
As the world addresses hunger, it is important for commercial and charitable organizations, like the Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), to work together to create and strengthen food banks to capture surplus fruits and vegetables and grocery products for our hungry neighbors. And, these types of private-public partnerships can be efficient and sustainable!
During a discussion at the 2011 World Food Prize in Des Moines, Jeff Klein, President and CEO of GFN, highlighted how the simple steps –which are not always "simple," but are very much needed in the developing world – can make a difference. By sharing best practices, training, and leveraging of resources, more and more communities around the world will be able to gain access to the powerful solution of foodbanking.
Choosing to become involved is a personal decision, yet it is sure to make a difference in the lives of the nearly one billion who face hunger daily. This Thanksgiving may be the perfect opportunity to start a new family tradition and give thanks, help feed the hungry, and improve the lives of others by volunteering or donating to a food bank. Learn where you can make a difference: http://feedingamerica.org/foodbank-results.aspx or www.foodbanking.org.
Hunger in America: Suffering We All Pay For http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/10/pdf/hunger_paper.pdf
USDA/ERS Stats—September 2011 http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/ERR125/ERR125.pdf)
SNAP Stats: http://www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/June11/Features/FoodSecuritySNAP.htm
World Hunger.org http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/us_hunger_facts.htm
Feeding America.org http://feedingamerica.org/get-involved.aspx
Capital Area Food Bank http://www.capitalareafoodbank.org/donate-time-and-volunteer/
Common Dreams.org http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/11/22