This year, I've been celebrating more food holidays than ever before. Most every day, there is a different food to celebrate. Just in September, we have celebrations of grits for breakfast, ants on a log (raisins on peanut butter and celery!), coffee ice cream, and eating hoagies.
Baked (see what I did there?) into these food days is Hunger Action Month, throughout September. As someone who loves food, celebrates food and works on food issues, I wasn't sure how best to observe Hunger Action Month in a meaningful way. The fact that 13.5 million Americans were food insecure last year (i.e. didn't know where or when their next meal would come) didn't put me in a celebratory mood.
But it's not really about celebrating, I realized. It’s about acting. Working as a VISTA at United Way Worldwide, I get lots of behind-the-scenes views of local action to reduce hunger. I'm amazed by the United Way network’s creative solutions, community engagement and dedicated work to alleviate hunger around the world.
So let's be inspired by the efforts of United Way King County in Seattle, which is awarding $4.5M <million!> to 36 community-based organizations, meal programs, food banks, and coalitions to help distribute culturally appropriate food to under-resourced communities. And let's lift up United Way of New York City, which provided more than 2M meals to hungry New Yorkers last year through the Hunger Prevention, Nutrition, and Assistance Program, a state program offering lines of credit to purchase nutritious food items, food safety and food sanitation supplies, through United Way or the Food Bank in New York City. United Way continues to connect families to food pantries through the innovative Plentiful app, making it easy for 250+ NYC food pantries to serve more hungry people, more easily.
Now that I think about it, maybe we *should* be celebrating action taken by people and organizations to reduce hunger. Like United Way Mumbai’s partnership with the government’s Integrated Child Development effort, working to address childhood malnutrition and create a sustainable environment for children to grow. Or United Way of Greater Toledo's work leading the charge to enact citywide free breakfast for students in all public schools.
So throughout September, let's take action to fight hunger in our own communities. Need ideas? How about:
1. Donate non-perishable goods to your local food bank, or become a volunteer. You can find a local food bank through 211, the 24-7 go-to resource across the U.S. and Canada that's supported by United Way.
2. Call up a local shelter in your community (call 211 to find one!) and ask them what kind of fresh vegetables they need. Then go buy a few pounds, and deliver it.
3. Learn more about the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, happening Sept. 28. It's the first one in 50 years, and United Way will be there, speaking out for equitable community solutions that address hunger and food insecurity.
How will you help fight hunger today?