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It's Almost Summer: Your Local Food Assistance Program Needs You

Photo: Clancy Cash Harrison MS, RDN, FAND

Hunger exists 365 days a year, not just during the holiday season. Yet food donations slow down to dribbles in the spring and then a drought during the summer months. The highest need for food donations occurs during the summer months because of the large participation gap between the National School Lunch Program and the Summer Feeding Program.

During the school year, nearly 22 million children rely on the National School Lunch Program for a steady and predictable lunch, according to Feeding America. In the summer, this daily meal disappears for approximately 82 percent of those children due to issues relating to transportation, location of programs, unsafe areas and weather. Parents are forced to stretch their tight budgets and rely on food pantries.

Let’s work together to end hunger all year long.  Here are 5 ways you can donate to end hunger today:

Donate Your Passion

What are you passionate about? Everyone has something unique to offer the world. The Al Beech West Side Food Pantry, in Kingston, PA, where I volunteer, empowers its volunteers to lead with their passions and hobbies, which helps fight hunger with dignity. What does that look like? Here are some examples:

  • Students volunteers are allowed to practice their instruments while clients are picking up food— this adds warmth, comfort and dignity to the food assistance process.
  • Photographers take photos of our free farmers market that are then used to bring awareness to the program and its mission.
  • One of our senior gentleman volunteers recently built new shelves to ensure the safety of our clients and volunteers.
  • A retired senior and Master Gardener donated time to teach children how to run our small food pantry garden.
  • A college student helped edit articles for the promotion of the food pantry.

When people lead with their passion, dignity is cultivated, which encourages more of those struggling with food insecurity to use their local food pantry's services.

Don’t Let Garden Surplus Rot

Consider dropping off your garden surplus. One cucumber can change the world. If everyone dropped off one piece of produce, pantries would be able to feed many people.

Know the Right Foods & Products

  • Food pantries appreciate nourishing, non-perishable canned foods such as tuna, chicken, beef, salmon, peanut butter, beans, fruits and vegetables that contain no added salt or sugar.
  • It is always best to buy canned items with a pull-tab to open with ease.
  • Food packaged in plastic containers is preferred over food in glass containers to prevent broken glass and spills.  
  • Toiletries most appreciated by clients include toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products and diapers.

Donate Plastic Grocery Bags

Bring in some of those plastic grocery bags taking up space at your house. These are often needed to pack up donations for food pantry clients.

Volunteer Your Time

Reach out to your local food bank to find a Summer Feeding Program near you. Without volunteers to distribute the lunch, the programs cannot run and many children rely on this meal.

Hunger is real for 1 in 6 children in the United States. Together we can change the world and be the voice many children need.

Clancy Cash Harrison, MS, RDN, FANDClancy Cash Harrison MS, RDN, FAND, is a TEDx speaker, author of Feeding Baby, and food justice advocate. You can find more information at her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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