Food insecurity and hunger are very real problems in the United States. Though the U.S. has long been among the richest nations in the world, our national poverty rate has never dropped below 10%. Of those individuals and families living above the poverty line, many can easily be plunged into a financial crisis by a lost job, a medical emergency, a broken down car, a stolen purse, or other unexpected expense or loss of income. In all, up to 70% of Americans are vulnerable to food insecurity or hunger; and at any given moment, 30 to 40 million of us are either hungry or only acquiring sufficient food by shortchanging another critical need.
Hunger hurts, it damages mental and physical health, it lowers performance in school and at work, and the strain it causes can tear families apart. Hunger contributes to many social ills, from domestic violence to drug use to theft – you may have once heard someone self-righteously claim that they would never steal anything, only to have someone else counter with “…but what if your family was hungry?”, causing the original speaker to sheepishly admit that in that instance they might indeed resort to doing something desperate. Reducing the prevalence of hunger can cause a ripple of positive changes throughout a community.
Whether they are called food pantries, shelves, closets, kitchens, or something completely different, the thousands of charities that provide non-governmental food aid to people in need play a critical role in our nation’s fight against hunger and poverty. This guide exists to help them in their work.