When a family experiences hunger, it means much more than missing one meal. It means not knowing when their next meal will be. Or having to decide between paying the electric bill or feeding your kids dinner. The stress of hunger impacts a person’s ability to learn and succeed, on the job and in the classroom.
Right now, one in every eight families are experiencing hunger.
But you can help these local families by volunteering. United Way of Greater Knoxville partners with local organizations to end hunger in our community. Check out the list below to find the right opportunity for you.
8 Ways to Volunteer to End Hunger
1. Collect non-perishable food
Donating non-perishable food items or hosting a food drive in your neighborhood, at work or among friends is a great way to give back. Families experiencing hunger rely on donated food at food pantries to help them stretch their budgets.
Tip: Focus on healthy foods like proteins and whole grains to help increase access to healthy food for local families. Or before you start the drive, call ahead to a pantry to find out what they need most.
2. Write a lawmaker
Advocacy is a big asset to the anti-hunger movement. You can help keep anti-hunger programs in place and encourage lawmakers to pass policies that prioritize access to healthy foods for families. Here are a few suggestions on what to advocate for:
Protect access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation’s largest anti-hunger program. SNAP provides access to food for those who cannot afford it. It's an important temporary lifeline for millions of Americans – mostly children, seniors and veterans – many of whom are in school or work but can’t make ends meet.
Support the Child Nutrition program reauthorization. Call on Congress to protect and strengthen access to the Child Nutrition programs to ensure all kids can be healthy and thrive.
Ask to increase funding for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a program that stabilize families when their incomes and assets are limited and ensure babies, mothers, children and families have access to nutritious food in tough times.
3. Sign up for a shift at a food bank
Food banks need volunteers to sort donations, stock shelves, prepare meals and serve food. Giving back by donating your time, even if it’s only a few hours, will make you feel great and have a big impact for local families.
Tip: Volunteer outside of the holiday season, for example in February or for your birthday, to spread the volunteer love throughout the year.
4. Join a backpack food event
Most kids from families who are hungry receive free or reduced school lunches, and some receive breakfast too. But on the weekends and during the summer those kids miss those important meals. Backpack events create take home bags that give kids consistent access to the healthy, nutritious food they might otherwise miss.
5. Meal delivery to seniors
For seniors who are ill or otherwise unable to go to the grocery store or a restaurant, a home delivered meal can be an important resource. These meals also help seniors in need maintain a well-balanced diet. Volunteers prepare and deliver meals to seniors and offer companionship when they do.
6. Help at a community garden
Community gardens and farms are an important resource in providing healthier items, like fresh fruits and vegetables and eggs, to families who are hungry. Volunteer opportunities are often seasonal, but some farms do operate year round.
7. Pick up food from local stores and restaurants
Sometimes food is still safe to eat but can no longer be sold in local grocery stores or at restaurants. Instead of throwing food out, stores and restaurants often donate it to local food pantries and food banks. Volunteers can help collect those items and transport them to local organizations.
Don’t have time to volunteer? Donate! United Way of Greater Knoxville works with many local organizations who lead the fight against hunger. By donating you are amplifying our collective impact in the community. For example, a local food pantry can stretch five dollars into twenty dollars through bulk purchasing.
You can also combine donations with any of the volunteer ideas above. For example if you are hosting a food drive, ask everyone to donate one dollar with every item they bring in. Going the extra step can make a tremendous impact and build a stronger community!