I just came across a staggering figure – there are 3.5 million homeless people in this country. Here’s another frightening statistic – 1.35 million of those homeless people are children, according to a 2007 report by The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. Many homeless individuals will eventually find jobs and homes, and others will take refuge in shelters and satisfy their hunger at soup kitchens. Yet, many others will continue to wander the streets cold, hungry, and hopeless. America’s shelters are simply not large enough, and our food pantries are not stocked enough, to take care of every homeless and hungry person.
When I hear these numbers, I can’t help but look at my three children differently as I cut yet another apple or prepare another peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my constantly hungry brood. How on earth would I feed my kids if I were jobless, homeless, or poor? It’s almost unbearable to think about. Yet, there are millions of parents who are out on the streets living that nightmare.
You may not think you have the ability to make a difference, but you can help feed the hungry children of America. The week before Thanksgiving is always National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless. Pretty appropriate, since Thanksgiving is known as an overindulgent holiday when those who can usually stuff themselves just like a turkey. Many schools, churches and community groups will use this holiday as an opportunity to host food drives. My children are starting to collect canned goods for their school drives as I sit down to write this article.
But you don’t need to belong to an organization that is spearheading a food drive. You, alone, can make a difference. Here’s how.
Check Out Hunger
This scanning fund drive takes place in grocery stores across the country, usually from October through February. You’ll see $2, $3, and $5 donation slips at the check-out counter. Choose one, and hand it to the cashier. Once your slip is scanned, you will have donated 100% of that amount to your local food bank. You’d be amazed, I think, to learn that for every $2 donation made, food banks are able to distribute $25 worth of food to hungry and homeless people.
Go Food Shopping for The Hungry
Once a year, my children and I head to the grocery store without our typical shopping list. Instead of shopping for ourselves, we fill our cart with non-perishable items that we then take directly to our local food bank. It’s especially helpful for children to see first-hand where their donations go.
Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen
Soup kitchens need help with food delivery, preparation, serving, and clean-up. And, though Thanksgiving tends to be the one day a year people think to volunteer, remember that soup kitchens are open all year long, and could use your help often. Find your local soup kitchen, and call them to see how you can help.
Ask for Food Instead of Presents
This holiday season, why not forgo the excessive gift-giving for a chance to help feed the hungry? Ask family and friends to join you in your effort to pass up the usual gifts for donations to the food bank. Do the same for birthday celebrations, even for children. On the invitations, encourage friends to bring canned goods for the homeless instead of gifts. If just one person in every family across America collected food for the hungry instead of accepting gifts, imagine how many mouths all that food could feed?
Count your blessings every time you, or your loved ones, fill your bellies. Say a prayer for the millions of parents who are struggling to feed their children. And then, finally, answer that prayer by making a cash donation, or buying some food, and filling the bellies of the homeless and hungry – today, Thanksgiving, and every day.
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