December 19, 2014
For a majority of Americans, the holiday season is a time of celebration, feasting, and thankfulness. In the midst of our merriment, however, it's important to remember that while many of us are planning our holiday meals, millions of Americans will be wondering where they are going to get their next meal.
Feeding America recently revealed the results of its quadrennial study, Hunger in America 2014 (176 pages, PDF) — the largest, most comprehensive study of its kind. The study concluded that, in the most recent calendar year, one in seven Americans — or more than 46 million people — sought food assistance from the Feeding America network.
On the surface, people relying on foodbanks may not appear to be "hungry." They may have a home and a job. Yet all too often, they struggle to get enough to eat for themselves and, in many cases, their families. Many qualify as working poor — they work long hours but are paid such meager wages that they are forced to choose between paying the heating bill and buying food. And for a person living paycheck to paycheck, one car problem or unforeseen illness can have devastating consequences. Despite their hard work, food-insecure people often find financial stability out of reach.
Foodbanks are a lifeline for millions of people and families in need. In every county across America, they provide food for people struggling to get by. Yet while these services are critical, the provision of food alone will not solve the problem of hunger. As the plight of the working poor demonstrates, food insecurity does not exist in isolation. It intersects with other basic needs such as housing, access to health care, and employment. To truly solve the problem, we have to meet the needs of low-income families holistically and help them build a pathway out of poverty.
Recognizing this, some foodbanks have begun to partner with job training organizations, healthcare workers, financial firms, and others to help the people they serve access resources that enable them to meet other priority needs. Bank of America, for example, has committed to working with Feeding America to provide families facing hunger with access to the benefits and financial tools they need to begin building a financial safety net and, ultimately, a path to economic stability. Partnerships such as these enable food-insecure families to reach goals they once thought unimaginable, including saving for college, buying a house, and achieving financial stability.
Here's another thing to keep in mind: You don't have to be involved with a large organization to make a difference. All of us have a role to play in solving hunger and ending poverty, and the holiday season is when foodbanks across the nation face increased demand. This holiday season, celebrate by doing your part to help fight hunger. Find your local foodbank and make a donation, volunteer, and/or spread the word. Together, we can help foodbanks provide hungry Americans not only with food but with the resources they need to have a brighter tomorrow.
Bob Aiken is CEO of Feeding America, the nation's network of foodbanks. Kerry Sullivan is president of the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, which has partnered with Feeding America as the exclusive sponsor of its annual Give A Meal program. For every $1 donated to the program, Bank of America gives $2 to help provide meals to individuals and families in need. The 2014 program ran from September to December and marked the fifth year that the program has successfully raised $1.5 million in online and text donations to support national and local hunger relief efforts.