In 2005, more than 35 million Americans lived in households that did not have enough food, including 12.4 million children, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
And that's even before a disaster such as pandemic influenza, hurricanes or flooding strikes. Once a disaster occurs, demand on food banks can increase. In 2001, for example, Washington, D.C.-area food banks experienced a shortage of supplies after hotels, restaurants and other businesses closed following Sept. 11, forcing many low-wage workers to turn to food banks for help.
So what can you do to help? Here are some tips:
* Locate a food bank in your community. Call your local city or county office and ask where the nearest food bank is located, or use Second Harvest's online directory.
* Volunteer your time. Many food banks depend on volunteers to keep things running. Offer to work in your food bank office or to bag groceries for distribution. Some food banks also need drivers to pick up donated food from area grocery stores.
* Organize a food drive at your office or school. Most food banks have a list of items that they regularly need, so check with them first.
* Donate money. If you don't have time to help out, food banks are always in need of donations that can be used to purchase food or keep their offices running.
* Advocate for policies and legislation at the national level that will help people who need food or other assistance, such as the proposed 2-1-1 Act (see related blog entry below).
Remember that food banks need help year-round, not just at holidays. So the next time you are looking for a way to help out, remember your local food bank. Your community will thank you.