Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bankrupt Food Banks? A Nationwide Risk!

I remember the angst and helplessness I felt when volunteering at a church’s once-a-week food shelter and realizing that the number of cars lining up at the food pantry’s door was far greater than the number of bags of groceries we were handing out.  Saying “Sorry, folks, no more!” to those who were too far back in the car line was painful.

I’d like to think that my experience at that food bank was an isolated one.  But the reality is that donations to food banks are down from coast to coast.  Simultaneously, food shelters are seeing record numbers of those seeking help in feeding their families.

The Critical Status of Free Food Banks Today

Foodbank donations
Local church food panty collects donations for their food bank.
There’s an unfortunate bit of irony that occurs whenever the country is in a season of economic difficulty; at the very time when the ranks of un- and underemployed are growing, organizations that offer free groceries to the needy suffer from declining donations. The result:  food bank bankruptcy!

According to the nonprofit organization Feeding America, "48.8 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 32.6 million adults and 16.2 million children."  They also reported that requests for emergency food assistance were up by 30 percent in 2008 from the previous year.  And with the unemployment in many areas even higher today than in 2008, these statistics only get worse.  Many local food banks are reporting greater than 20 percent increases in customers and greater than 40 percent increases in free food distributed.  And this is at a time when the New York Times reports that local food pantries or free food banks are reporting critical food shortages in the USA, forcing them to ration supplies and distribute staples usually reserved for disaster relief.  Some have even had to close their doors due to lack of support.

Perform a search on Bing or Google for “food bank shortage” and you will be overwhelmed by the barrage of news articles regarding food banks across the country that are unable to keep up with the demand from those in need of groceries.

To get a grip on the food bank situation in your area, simply add the name of your town or county to the search; chances are you’ll find news and announcements of empty local food pantry shelves within miles of your own home.

I suppose a problem with food or dollar donation shortages should not be surprising, as many of those who make food bank donations become the ones in need when unemployment rates are high.

Food Crisis in America

Government, organizations, and individuals recognize the food crisis in the USA.  Many people wrongly assume that their tax dollars can handle this food problem.  But we all have to do our part. The government provides resources such as food stamp programs and the WIC program – Women, Infant, and Children – providing food donations or groceries to those in need.  But it is not nearly enough in times like these when the need is greater than the supply of programs. 

A food shortage isn't just a government problem - it is a people problem.  If everyone stepped up to help out their neighbors, families wouldn't have to choose between buying groceries or making the rent or mortgage payment.  At times like this free food banks become a critical resource.

You Can Help Solve the Food Crisis!

The purpose of this blog post is to increase awareness of the food bank shortages and to identify solutions.  The good news is, there are many ways you can help your community to overcome this food bank crisis.
Local Food Pantry
Non-perishable foods feed many families in need.
  • Make regular food donations – Nearly every community has free food banks, and I’ve never heard of one suffering from too many donations.   If you’re not sure where your neighborhood’s food banks are, inquire at any church.  If they don’t have their own food bank program, such as a church food pantry, they likely participate in the food shelter program of another church or neighborhood organization that would be grateful for your canned food donations or financial support. 
  • Become a food shelter volunteer – If you’ve never volunteered at a food bank or pantry, you’re missing out on one of life’s great blessings.  How you feel about yourself at the end of the day after spending a few hours as a food shelter volunteer is immeasurable and good for the soul.  Consider involving your whole family in the food shelter volunteering effort; your children mature in healthy ways when they are raised to recognize the needs of others and develop a habit of taking action to reduce the misery of others.  The good thing about volunteering is that it allows you to help the food banks even when your own resources are too limited to donate food or funds.
  • Support a food bank by starting a grocery drive – If your church or workplace doesn’t already have a food bank support program, work with the leadership to start one!  It’s as easy as distributing paper bags and announcing the food drive to the congregation or employees, explaining what kinds of grocery donations are needed and by when.  Even if your workplace or church already has a holiday grocery drive, food banks need support even when there’s not a holiday, so…   :-)
  • Start a food bank! – in the unlikely event that your town or region has no food banks, consider starting one.  Talk with a church or leaders in your community to enlist their help.
Oh, and there’s one more thing you can do to help:

Share This Article with Others

This is something you can do right now – yes, this very minute; copy the Web address to this blog and forward it by e-mail, Facebook, or Google+ to your friends and relatives.  Help us double the awareness of this national food bank crisis and you’ll be helping to put food on the table of those in need.

We would also love to hear of your experiences volunteering or giving to a food bank.  Give a shout out to your local food pantry and thank them for their dedication!

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

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