The Growing Need For Food Assistance in America

Your next door neighbor is raking the first signs of autumn leaves in his front yard… The little boy you babysit twice a month is begging for you to let him watch his favorite cartoons… Your old college roommate calls to tell you she is expecting her first grandchild…

What do these people all have in common? Yes, they all know and love the fabulous YOU. But other than that, they all also have families that love and care for them. They have good homes and steady jobs (The little boy’s job may only be to play Wall Ball and Wii in every second of his spare time, but who can blame him?). But when you look beyond the surface, after peeling away the layers used to cover dark secrets, you will realize that all three of these people are receiving meals from local food pantries.

Many people make the misconstrued assumption that the only people who need food assistance are the homeless or unemployed. What people do not realize is that there is an increasing amount of children, seniors, and the “working poor” who are having to turn to food pantries and charities for their daily meals. The “working poor” are classified as those who have jobs (often more than one) but still have not found a way to make enough money to feed themselves and/or their families. They are people just like you and me. They are people you may see every single day.

With America’s economy in the shape that it is in, the cost of living continues to escalate while the rate of unemployment does the same. At the beginning of this year, America’s unemployment rate was below 5%. Now, just nine months later, it has risen to 6.1%, the highest it has been in five years. In Dallas alone, the unemployment rate has shot up to 5.2%, the highest since three years ago. With so many people losing their sources of income, the need for basic necessities is greatly increasing. The amount of people that are reluctantly turning to charities and food banks keeps rising every day. People that never dreamed of needing assistance are suddenly finding themselves in financial trouble.

Many of us neglect to take the time out of our day to notice those less fortunate than us. While struggling to pay bills or wincing every time we pass a gas station, most of us have been fortunate enough to provide what we need to for our families. In fact, many of us can thankfully provide MORE than we need to for our families. But from dropping Christmas cards off at the Post office to picking our kids up from soccer practice, who can blame us? There is not enough time in the day to think about putting food on our own tables, much less the tables of others. But next time your child enters your kitchen wanting a snack, think of all the kids who have the same wants and needs, and whose mothers have to consistently tell them there is not enough food for a snack. The next time your husband asks what gourmet meal you want him to cook you for dinner, think about all of the husbands that would love nothing more than to be able to provide ANYTHING for dinner, gourmet aside. The next time you are at work, being reminded with sharp hunger-pangs that you still have two hours until your lunch break, think of all the people that have those same pangs but have no lunches to look forward to on their breaks.

It is difficult for many people to fully understand how someone could not be able to afford a meal. Maybe you are a college student, and your parents have always made sure you never wanted for anything (or at least that you had a nice, plush cushion to fall back on when your beer money ran dry). Maybe you were once a child whose family could not afford enough food, but, in order to provide for your family, you have worked your way to the top and do not have time to think about “small problems” like hunger in the community (not to mention you don’t remember what it feels like to go hungry for a night or two). Maybe you are a grandmother or grandfather who has steadily provided for your family, sure to provide nothing more and nothing less than what you need. Maybe you are a young professional who thrives on going to city hot spots with the chicest crowd. In all of these scenarios, it may be hard to envision what it feels like to go hungry, or how it feels to not be able to provide for the ones you love. In any case, it is never too late to think about it. Likewise, it is never too early to lend a helping hand to those who may need it.

There are many different ways to help someone in need, none of which go unnoticed. To locate a food bank near you, please visit Feeding America’s food bank locator at http://feedingamerica.org/zip_code.jsp