If you are looking for volunteer opportunities, you may want to contact humanitarian services in your area that work towards ending child hunger. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that about 10.5% of households suffered from food insecurity during 2020, and many families with children experienced significant increases in food insecurity during the pandemic. There are many service opportunities to combat this issue. Here are just two ways you can help children in your community.
Donate the Right Items to Your Local Food Bank
Food banks collect and redistribute donations to soup kitchens, meal programs, community pantries, and other organizations that assist people in need. Donating canned, non-perishable goods to your local food bank is a good place to start ending child hunger. However, some food banks may have an abundance of one item and be lacking in other areas, so it's a good idea to call or reach out to the bank directly to see what they need currently.
Also, keep in mind that not all non-perishable food is equal—you should be looking at the nutritional labels to make sure that these foods are nutrient-dense, as children who don't get nutritious foods are at an increased risk for disease and deficiencies. For instance, avoid overly processed foods, like cookies, and look for foods that are high in healthy fats and protein. Some good foods to donate include:
- Canned fish or canned chicken in water
- Canned beans
- Seeds and nut butters
- Canned veggies with low sodium
- Whole-grain pasta, cereal, or rice
- Non-perishable milk substitutes
You may be tempted to bring leftovers or bake something on your own, but many food banks cannot accept these types of items since they aren't sealed and/or the ingredients cannot be verified during the preparation process.
Re-Establish a "Third Place" for Afterschool Meal Programs
A "third place" is a sociological term that describes an area outside of home or work where a person can relax and connect to others in the community, such as a park, library, mall, church, etc. Due to the pandemic and an increase in online communities, some third places, like afterschool programs, have disappeared. If you have children of your own, you may want to work with your local school district to re-establish some afterschool programs so that children have a third place where they can receive a meal and connect with other peers. For instance, the USDA offers a Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) with funding so that afterschool programs can provide snacks and/or meals to children in need.
These are just a couple of ideas to consider when helping children in your community. Again, reach out to a humanitarian service in your area for more details.