Giving Back and Acting Locally

Alewife Food Pantry Volunteers giving back. A volunteer prepares food on the National Day of Service

Tis the season … of giving, receiving, celebrating and reflecting. Yet for many, it’s a season of uncertainty.

Here are just a few stats that may surprise some.

Globally: The United Nations World Food Programme estimates that one in eight people among the world’s population of 7 billion goes to bed hungry each night.

Nationally: Share Our Strength reports that 16 million children in the U.S. live in households that have a hard time putting food on the table.

Locally: According to Bread for the City, one in eight D.C. households struggles with hunger.

Startling, I know.

That’s why this holiday season, rather than buy and give traditional client gifts, we are donating to food banks on behalf of our clients in the communities in which they are headquartered. We hope these gifts will make a difference in the disturbing cycle of hunger.

The reasons for hunger and food insecurity vary, but domestically, research points to it being an issue of access. Our neighbors — including many children in D.C. — need help connecting to sources of good, nutritious food.

And the problem doesn’t stop there. According to So Others Might Eat (SOME), in addition to struggling with hunger, children living in poverty are less likely to feel connected to their schools and communities, which we know through our work in behavioral health is a barrier to them reaching their potential. They are more likely to drop out of high school, less likely to start or graduate from college, and more likely to be poor as adults.[1]

Likewise, older adults across the country are facing food insecurity. With Americans living longer, having significant health care expenses and a reduced income, good meals can be difficult to come by. Hard choices must be made about what is needed most at a particular time, and groceries don’t always make the cut.

These are truths that are hard to accept, and truths that demand our attention.

Fortunately, there are many entities focused on solving this problem. Groups like the AARP Foundation are working to curb the issue for seniors and provide them with access to affordable, healthy foods. And Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry initiative is tackling everything from the summer meal gap to the importance of school breakfast for little minds who need that nutrition every day to learn.

These and so many community food banks are working hard each and every day to create a new and brighter future for children and families in communities across the world. As a communicator, I know the power of individual action … when we rally together, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish. Giving back to those in need is the right thing to do.

I am so grateful this holiday that I am surrounded by people — colleagues and clients — who raise their hand every day to help their fellow humankind.

[1] Source: So Others Might Eat website, Retrieved December 9, 2015