What you can do to alleviate hunger
Nov 03, 2022
Less food. Higher costs. More need than ever.
That is the stark reality facing many food pantries and other organizations tackling hunger challenges in America. While hunger is always a critical focus area, today, more and more Americans struggle with affording the basic necessities of life. Inflation is close to a 40-year high, and along with rising food prices, the ballooning costs of fuel and labor have made it harder for hunger-alleviating organizations to stock their shelves and make deliveries. Charities supporting low-income families have seen an increase in requests for help, and the size of those requests has also increased.1
Just ask Bernice Behar, Family Table Program Manager for Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Boston, an organization Vanguard Charitable donors have supported every year since 2000.
“The challenge for food pantries right now is twofold,” Behar said. “Demand is surging because so many people who were barely getting by before are now struggling with high food and gas prices. And at the same time, the pantries themselves are having to pay more for food and everything else that it takes to get that food to people who need it.”
The latest economic data fills in this grim picture. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices experienced an 11.2% increase and energy prices surged 19.8% between September 2021 and September 2022.2 Add to that a 12.6% increase in rents from 2021 to 2022, according to CoreLogic,3 and it’s easy to see how these pressures leave many families struggling to afford the costs of living.
In moments of acute need like this, dedicated volunteers and thoughtful donors can make a profound difference in the lives of those experiencing hunger. Here are a few things you can do to support food access in your community.
Learn about charitable opportunities
Many people may not know the full breadth of organizations tackling hunger in their area. Vanguard Charitable has a number of tools to help you, and we’ll highlight two here.
The Nonprofit Aid Visualizer™ (NAVi) is an online tool that inspires you to take your giving further by providing access to best-in-class data that simplifies and empowers your charitable research and decision-making process. NAVi for Hunger & Homelessness aims to provide the information needed to understand where and how you can make a difference in your local area, state, or even across the country.
After Vanguard Charitable launched NAVi for Hunger & Homelessness,4 our donors granted a total of $310M in the first year.5
If you want your giving to make a difference in the New York, San Francisco, or Philadelphia areas, Vanguard Charitable has a powerful new tool called Smartfunds. Developed in collaboration with Goodnation, Smartfunds are high-impact giving opportunities that use a portfolio approach and empower donors to effect lasting change across these complex cause areas with just one single gift. Think of Smartfunds like charitable mutual funds; when you give to the Smartfund, you support all the organizations in the fund.
Overall grant dollars to charities addressing both hunger and homelessness increased by 6%, as compared to the same period of last year.6
When was the last time you went through your own pantry? Many of us are guilty of hanging on to a couple of cans here and there that could be better placed with others. A kitchen clean-out day is not only a great way to tackle an oft-ignored chore, but it can also garner lots of valuable supplies for donation. And don’t stop in the kitchen! Sanitary supplies like soap, shampoo, and menstrual products are some of the most-needed pantry items;7 same with first aid supplies and over-the-counter medicines and vitamins. Make sure anything you’re donating is unopened and not past its expiration date.
Not sure where to donate? No matter where you live, there are likely people experiencing hunger, which means there are groups you can get involved with that are already addressing your neighbor’s needs. Reach out to your city or town government to find out if there is a municipal food pantry. Churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples frequently host food pantries and food drives. You can also seek out homeless shelters or temporary housing assistance groups for survivors of domestic violence.
Become a volunteer
Few things feel more rewarding than giving your time to help people in an immediate way. Get in touch with local organizations and find out their volunteer needs. Think outside of the box when discussing your volunteering to play to your existing strengths. If you’re a communications expert, consider volunteering to help with an organization’s social media or newsletter. If you have a vehicle, ask if there are any transportation needs you can help with.
If you serve on a board or commission, volunteer with the PTA, or even participate in a book or gardening club, mobilize your fellow members to collect canned goods or sanitary supplies to donate. You can also leverage connections in the local business community to facilitate public-private partnerships or set up public donation spaces—sometimes, it’s just a matter of making the right introductions. Whatever your time, physical abilities, or comfort level, you can build a volunteer gig that’s right for you.
As the world emerges from the pandemic and addresses the supply chain problems it caused, it is predicted that hunger will be part of our lives for a long time. The generosity and philanthropy of people like you will allow organizations that address hunger to fulfill their missions.
1 Smialek, Jeanna and Casselman. August 8, 2022. Ben In an Unequal Economy, the Poor Face Inflation Now and Job Loss Later. The New York Times.
2 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. September, 2022. Economic News Release: Table 1. Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U): U. S. city average, by expenditure category.
3 CoreLogic. September 20, 2022. Annual US Rent Price Growth Slows for Third Consecutive Month in July, CoreLogic Reports.
4 The new iteration of the Nonprofit Aid Visualizer™ tool, NAVi for Hunger and Homelessness launched in November 2021.
5 The time period reviewed is within one calendar year from November 2021 to November 2022.
6 The time period reviewed is fiscal year 2022 as compared to fiscal year 2021.
7 Kelley, Lora and Kulish, Nicholas. August 4, 2022. More Americans Are Going Hungry, and It Costs More to Feed Them. The New York Times
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