It's happening! Stores around the country are talking about layaway, putting out the Christmas trees, and getting their holiday flyers off the printing presses. Most Americans are discussing what days they want to take off of work and how they'll spend the season with family -- enjoying lots of food, of course.
Unfortunately, for many in the U.S. (children, especially), there will be little to celebrate this holiday. Those that struggle with food insecurity may not get a break from wondering where their next meal will come from. That's why I'm so excited to tell you more about my local food bank: The Food Bank for the Heartland, based out of Omaha, NE.
Food Bank for the Heartland is the largest food bank in Nebraska and Iowa. Last year the Food Bank distributed 10 million pounds of food to more than 325 pantries, emergency shelters, meal providers and other non-profit organizations. Food Bank for the Heartland serves 93 counties in Nebraska and western Iowa. Approximately 200,000 people in the Food Bank's service area are considered food insecure meaning they may not know where their next meal is coming from.
I have toured this food bank personally, and I can say that they are doing GREAT things! So many of the donations have made it back into my local neighborhood -- over 60 miles away. When you visit, you can see all the boxes that have been set aside for community and church groups to pick up to help fuel their own hunger outreach programs.
Since so many organizations are feeling the pinch of the economy, my local food bank needs more help than ever to keep their shelves stocked with nutritious foods to provide the groups and outreach programs that operate all over my state of Nebraska. I have met in the past with my food bank Director, and the needs have pretty much not changed beyond the quantity, of course. Here are some answers to questions I had:
What foods does my local food bank need most?
While each food bank will differ in exact need, the basics are always appreciated. They include:
- Peanut butter
- Macaroni and cheese
- Canned tuna and chicken
- Pancake mix
- Canned fruit and vegetables
- Pork and beans
- Pasta and sauce
- Boxed meals
Like most non-profits groups, they really appreciate cash. They actually have more buying power than we do as consumers, and a dollar donated can do wonderful things! My family participated in a "virtual food drive" a few months ago, having the kids save a portion of their allowance to give to the food bank. For every $1 donated, the Food Bank can provide 3 meals to those in need! Online donations can be made via PayPal for an easy way to help out.
It's amazing to me that, in a state that literally covers hundreds upon hundreds of miles (and yet is so sparsely populated), an organization such as Food Bank for the Heartland does such a good job of covering all the areas of need. With 325 smaller food banks and pantry organizations depending on it to run efficiently, I am so proud to see it working as well as it does!
The holidays are no time to slack off in giving. If you have a heart for those with hunger problems, please contact your local food bank and see how you can help. Giving shouldn't stop just because we get busy with the "tree trimming" and such of the holidays. Hungry kids at Christmas is about the saddest thing I can think of and they shouldn't suffer in the connected environment of today.
Walmart is doing its part to make sure the gaps are being filled where we can't always provide. Through the Walmart Foundation and their Living Better programs, customers and employees are taking personal responsibility to see that no one goes hungry.
Take a look at this sweet video of how Walmart is helping one local community have breakfast:
Get involved. Get info. Get giving!
If you have questions on how to help, please shoot me an email. You'll be seeing much more from me on the issue of child hunger, as I work with brands to help share the message. Thanks so much for your support!
*I am a participant in the Walmart Moms program. Walmart has provided me with compensation for my time on this post. Participation in this program is voluntary. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.