Stand for Hope Against Hunger

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Here are two things we can all agree on: We live in a nation of great abundance. There is no shortage of food in America.

Millions of pounds of perfectly edible, nutritious food go to waste every day, even as food insecurity plagues our communities. It’s what drove the founding of food banking. We came together in our communities and created ways to safely “rescue” good food and move it to communities and families that need it.

Today, our food bank serves as a critical resource for a network of local food assistance organizations across 18-counties, where 1 of every 6 residents is unable to afford all the food they need. How many others are a pay check, layoff or illness away from hunger? It’s a question Tomi Melson asks a lot.

Tomi’s Story

A college education and years of success as an executive in the arts was no protection for her. Believing she was suffering from exhaustion, Tomi left her job with an eye toward starting anew. A diagnosis of a brain tumor stopped her in her tracks. After recovering from surgery, she was ready to get back to work. But by then the economic downturn was in full swing. She did contract work, gave thanks that she already owned her home and turned to food pantries and Food and Nutrition Services-FNS (formerly Food Stamps) to make ends meet.

“You never think it’ll be you, until it is,” says Tomi. “What kept hope alive in me were the countless small acts of kindness of friends, family and total strangers…the food pantry volunteer who, with a pat of hand, told me it was alright to be there.”

Today, Tomi leads Second Harvest Food Bank’s Community Relations and Development Team with passion and sensitivity, aware that hunger can happen to anyone…any time.

She counts herself fortunate to be employed amid economic conditions that are leaving far too many families behind to face choices no one should have to make. Kelli Schmitz is a witness to their struggles every day.

A Deeper View

As an intern for Second Harvest Food Bank, sponsored by the Abraham Project of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, Kelli has a rewarding, but tough job. She travels the region visiting our partner food assistance programs to help potentially eligible families apply for FNS (known national as SNAP and formerly as food stamps).

At Melfield United Church of Christ Food Pantry, Kelli met Judith, who works for the school system in Alamance County, yet struggles alongside her husband to feed her two teenage girls.

“Working families like Judith’s come to a food pantry because after paying essential expenses like rent, utilities and transportation there’s too little left to buy all of the food they need,” Kelli explains.

Kelli sees how unemployment and low wages are driving more and more people to the brink and to our partner food pantries for help.

“We are in a time where, for more and more people, having a job is not enough to keep them out of poverty. Non-profits like ours are doing our part to support struggling families like Judith’s, but we, alone, cannot do all that is necessary to protect our community from the consequences of food insecurity.

Kelli expects that Judith and her family will qualify for FNS, but she is concerned and so are we. Federal nutrition programs are in jeopardy.

For families that qualify for FNS, the assistance typically buys enough food for about two or two and a half weeks. Some can get by with that assistance. Others cannot and seek help at our partner programs. Many food insecure families have earnings just above the FNS poverty level limits (nearly one-quarter, according to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap Report). They do not qualify for FNS or free/reduced school meals for their children.

For these families, especially, our network is a lifeline. For them, and for all those hungering for a pathway to a better life, we stand for hope against hunger.

Stand For Hope Against Hunger. Let all those who have been elected to represent you know that addressing food insecurity and its root causes matters to you and is critical to the vitality of our communities and nation. Sign up to receive our legislative action alerts here.

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