Who is Feeding America?

© 2008 NEED Communications, Inc.
A family receives donated food at Grace Evangelical Free Church. Feeding America estimates that 35.5 million Americans live in food insecure households, including over 12 million children. photo | Steve Floyd

In the largest and most efficient food producing country in the world, who would imagine that anyone would go without food? The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the United States produces about $100 billion worth in crops and another $100 billion in livestock every year. Knowing this, it may be surprising to learn that, this year, Feeding America will feed over 25 million people who would otherwise go hungry in the United States. Feeding America is a network of over 200 food banks across the county that collects and distributes donated food and grocery products to those with low food security: whose ability to acquire acceptable foods is limited or uncertain.

Feeding America utilizes a network of over 63,000 local charitable organizations to make donation of food possible for local businesses. Without these local organizations, transportation of donated goods would too expensive for most businesses and billions of pounds of food would just be thrown away. Also, local organizations help to make distribution into communities possible by setting up soup kitchens, pantries, and distribution sites. I recently attended a food distribution at Grace Evangelical Free Church in Fridley, Minnesota.

Food is being handed out to a long line of recipients. photo | Steve Floyd

The church receives 30,000 lbs of food and grocery products once a month from Feeding America and up to another 10,000 lbs from a local food bank called Ruby’s Pantry. In July of 2007, when the church began to distribute food to the local community, most of the organizers were astonished when close to a thousand people assembled outside the church doors to receive food. Economic pressure and a migration of low income families away from the inner city has brought a great many more hungry people to suburban areas in recent years. Arlette, one of the food recipients at the distribution, said that she and her daughter used to volunteer at food distributions like this one in years past, but now, her and her children’s families have fallen on hard times. As she waits for her turn to go through the food donation line, she tells me, “The rest of my family is too proud to come and stand in line, so I have to.” She gladly accepts the help explaining, “You give when you can, and then [the volunteers] are there when you need it.”

Grace Evangelical Free Church distributes more than 50 lbs of food product to each of the 650 to 700 family units that come to the church every month. To unload, tally, repackage, and distribute this amount of food takes around 130 volunteers. The volunteers sweat in the sun on hot days as they unload pallets of food; they stand in the cold wind directing traffic in the winter months, and they spend long hours ensuring that each anxious family gets through the food lines and has someone to help carry heavy boxes of product out to cars and busses. In spite of the hard work, volunteers continue to come back. “The food distribution is an awesome ministry, a great thing.” says Teri Porter, one of the distribution volunteers. “It’s my favorite day of the month!”

Feeding America states that “volunteers and faith-based organizations are the lifeline of America’s emergency food distribution system.” They note that nearly 75 percent of food pantries and 65 percent of soup kitchens are run by faith based agencies and as many as 90 percent of these organizations use volunteers. The people feeding Americans are volunteers like those at Grace Evangelical Free Church distributing the food collected by food banks like Ruby’s Pantry and Feeding America. Without them, one could find a thousand more hungry people in and around Fridley, Minnesota, 25 million more starving mouths in the US, and over 2 billion pounds of food products wasted.

A girl in line for food holds the door while others file in to receive over 50 lbs of food from Ruby’s Pantry and Feeding America. photo | Steve Floyd

Feeding America
35 E. Wacker Dr., #2000
Chicago, IL 60601
ph: 800.771.2303
ph: 312.263.2303

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