Food banks and other programs distributing groceries to those who need them get a lot of press this time of year. The groaning tables of our holidays tend to open even the tightest wallets. (Or at least coin purses.)
The work of feeding folks once fell to the old timers: Salvation Army and the like, or churches, synagogues, mosques, and other local nonprofits.
It’s big business now, which is a good news-bad news situation if ever there was one. Getting big hitters involved makes things happen, and more people are served. But the growing number who need that help is dismaying to say the least.
Feeding America, reportedly the largest network of food banks and food programs in the country, covers the waterfront. Its 2010 “Hunger in America” study is cited in most stories needing stats on the situation.
It boasts an impressive roster of stars promoting its work. Money comes from the likes of ConAgra and Wal-Mart, as well as a long list of lesser corporate folks. And a lot of regular people who like what they see on Charity Navigator. (A good tool to know about when getting out your checkbook.)
Those ubiquitous stats from Feeding America are harsh. The most often noted:
The 37 million Americans served annually by Feeding America include nearly 14 million children and nearly 3 million seniors.
Each week, approximately 5.7 million people receive emergency food assistance from an agency served by a Feeding America member. This is a 27 percent increase over numbers reported in Hunger in America 2006, which reported that 4.5 million people were served each week.
And keep in mind that these numbers are from last year. Things are worse.
Mazon, a Jewish relief organization for the hungry hits it on the head with its seasonal slogan:
“We don’t blame you for feeling tired of hearing stories about families struggling with hunger…Can you imagine the exhaustion of the struggle to put food on the table?”
This national organization partners with Kaiser Permanente to get healthier food to the hungry, instead of the high-sodium canned foods that represent such a big part of the donated items.
That emphasis on healthy eats is gaining real momentum in the food-bank world. While no hunger-relief outfit wants to discourage donations of any kind…if you really want to help, give money and time. If you give food, bless you, but skip the case of ramen noodles, please.
–Food Watchdog Staff