10 Ways to Help Families That Are Food-insecure

Food insecurity had already been rising in the United States before the COVID-19 pandemic began. The pandemic has made the situation much worse for many American families. Millions of people who never visited a food bank before the pandemic have had to do so in order to put food on their tables. Millions of lost jobs, high healthcare bills, the closure of schools, low stocks in grocery stores and limits of many items that are in stock at grocery stores have all contributed to food insecurity. On January 14, Feeding America reported that food banks are overwhelmed. Here are 10 ways individuals can help combat food insecurity in their own communities.

1. Make a Meal for a Neighbor

If you know your neighbor is having a tough time putting food on their table, ask them what they're able to eat. Inquire as to food allergies, dietary restrictions and food preferences. Do a porch drop-off of a meal, and text them when you drop it off. Some good options include chili with or without meat, stew, baked goods and or a loaf of homemade bread.

2. Organize a Meal Train

If you know of a family that is quarantined or low on funds, organize a meal train for them. This will also require getting a list of their dietary restrictions, food allergies and preferences. With a meal train, you can create an online signup. Each person can choose a day to drop off a meal, and they can share what they'll bring so that meals aren't duplicated. This works well for large-batch foods, such as lasagna and baked spaghetti.  

3. Volunteer at a Food Bank

Most food banks are providing pre-packed boxes and bags of food. They're delivering them to customers through no-contact distribution, such as putting the bags in the trunk of the customer's car. A few food banks and soup kitchens are still preparing hot meals to serve the community. If you're able to, consider volunteering at one of these organizations in your neighborhood.

4. Volunteer for Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels is a national organization that delivers meals to people who are severely ill, homebound or elderly. You can volunteer to drive and drop off the meals. Interactions with Meals on Wheels drivers may be the only socializing some of the recipients get to do.

5. Donate Money

If you're physically unable to volunteer your time, consider a cash donation to your neighborhood food bank. Most food banks have access to wholesale suppliers, so a $1 donation goes much further for them than if you spent that $1 at the grocery store and donated the food you bought.    

6. Start a Blessings Box

Blessings boxes are cabinets or cupboards placed outdoors and available 24/7 for a person to get food. They're a no-questions-asked, take what you need, leave what you can community food drive. They're for non-perishable, non-expired food and hygiene products. Some items that can be stocked in a blessings box include anything that would be a blessing to someone in need, such as baby diapers and wipes, menstrual care products, soap, toothpaste, cans of soup, tubs of peanut butter and boxes of pasta.

7. Grow a Garden

Around the time of World War II, victory gardens were common. You can grow your own, even if you don't have a yard. You can use raised planters, five- or 10-gallon buckets or large flower pots. Potatoes, tomatoes, greens and herbs are all easy to grow. You can get free garden plans online. Many communities offer seed exchange programs to help cut down on the startup costs of a backyard garden.

8. Start a Food Drive

Go through your cabinets. If something's going to expire next month, and you already tried one and didn't like it, put it in a box for the food bank, Only donate items that are unopened and not expired. Don't forget to go through your bathroom cabinet to look for those small sample sizes of floss or toothpaste, extra bandages or a few leftover diapers or pull-ups your household didn't use.

9. Prepare Snack Bags

Prepare small snack bags with crackers, granola bars or mini tubs of peanut butter. Hand them out to the homeless or put them in blessings boxes.

10. Call Your Civic Leaders

Contact local or state officials, and urge them to support programs that aim to end food insecurity. Vote for people who take action to fund programs that help feed people. Raise awareness of food insecurity through social media.