In the United States and Canada many charitable organizations and church groups have stepped up over the years to provide critical support to those who cannot get the foods they need for a healthy life.
In the US a food bank is a warehouse-like facility for receiving food donations from grocery stores, restaurants, farmer’s markets and produce distributors. They sort, inspect, and re-package these foods. The food bank then distributes the foods to the front-line groups that in turn make them available directly to those in need. The front-line groups are soup kitchens, homeless shelters, senior care facilities, and “food pantries”. Food pantries are locations that stock a supply of foods for those in need to come by and pick up. Food pantries are often found in church buildings.
In Canada, food bank also describes a place that provides foods directly to those in need. Some Canadian food banks may be a blend of a US food pantry and a soup kitchen. On the other hand, some operate like a US food bank; they are usually called “food bank hubs”.
While food banks are in place and are doing a wonderful job, they rely not only on donated foods and household supplies, but also donated time. Volunteers can be individuals with a passion for love of neighbor (Rom. 13:9-10), or who see the poor and hungry as the least of Jesus’ brothers (Matt. 25:34-35). Volunteering doesn’t need to be done solo – get together friends and do it together as a group. Participating in acts of kindness together can be a wonderful experience which simply delights our Lord.
The First Step
Find a local food bank. Find their website or otherwise contact them. Learn about what they do and what their needs are for volunteers. Ask the chosen food bank what the work will be like. Expect they need help sorting donated foods, inspecting items for expiration dates and damaged goods, etc.
Now you can consider giving of your time. Food banks probably have a place on their website where you can volunteer, allowing you to choose a day and time that best fits with the other things you need to do. They will need you to sign up for a particular day and time to be there so they can manage the work better. Or perhaps they have a volunteer coordinator you can call. Maybe you can commit to one day a week, or maybe you can sign up now and then as your time permits. Perhaps your family can join you, but be sure to check on whether children are allowed.
Another very enjoyable option is to organize a group within the ecclesia to go all at the same time. Many such charities are set up to welcome small groups and make sure that not too many show up at one time.
The Need is Real
The US Department of Agriculture has created a term “very food insecure” to cover the food needs that vary from the homeless to those who experience a lack of food occasionally during the year. The latter may be families with children or the elderly on very limited incomes. The types of expenses that can happen, that mean families are unable to buy enough food, include major car repairs, medical expenses including high cost prescriptions, huge rent increases, etc.. The number of people who are food insecure is, of course, an estimate. In the United States the US Department of Agriculture estimates the number of “very food insecure” individuals to be about 14 million. Many are children.
Finding Opportunities in the United States
One of the major hunger-relief charities in the US is Feeding America. It operates about 200 food banks; locations can be found here. Each location has page where you can signup to volunteer your time (and of course, to donate). There are, of course, many other food banks in the US; a Google search will find one close to your location.
One example of Feeding America’s work is a built-up, four county area of SE Florida. The total population of these four counties is 6.27 million. Last year Feeding America’s food bank serving these counties, through their partner agencies, provided 706,000 individuals with additional needed food, of which 236, 000 were children and 100,000 were elderly. These numbers represent 11% of the population.
Finding Opportunities in Canada
In Canada, food banks are more directly involved with distributing food to the needy than are “food banks” in the US. Food Banks Canada has a directory, listing almost 650 of these independent food banks. About 130 of these are in southern Ontario alone. As an example of Canadian needs, the site reports 1.1 million visits to food banks in the month of March 2019. That’s 3% of all Canadians in just that one month, with no doubt each visit representing a number of others who also needed food.
Some of the food banks in Canada are quite similar to the food banks in the US, collecting food supplies and providing them to the more direct-to-the-hungry food banks. One example is the Hamilton Foodshare, which provides food supplies to 12 local area food banks and hot meal programs.
While we are pleased to be able to provide grants and initiatives to our Brothers and Sisters, there is a real cost associated with these efforts and so donations would be greatly appreciated. The Garden is comprised entirely of volunteers and 100% of funds received are put towards future initiatives and support programs for our North American Christadelphian community. Donations can be made on our donation page or the WCF website.
1. Coleman-Jensen, Alisha, Matthew P. Rabbitt, Christian A. Gregory, and Anita Singh. 2020. Household Food Security in the United States in 2019, ERR-275, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
2. Household Food Insecurity in Canada: https://proof.utoronto.ca/food-insecurity/