8 Ways to Help People Who are Food Insecure

Ways to Volunteer from Home or In-Person

In this time of crisis, many people in our community are looking for ways to give back. We appreciate that our region is full of hand-raisers and do-gooders! With the help of generous people like you, we can work together to manage the impact of COVID-19.

One big effect of the current crisis is a growing number of families and individuals who are food insecure. Food insecurity means that someone’s access to food or eating has decreased because of a lack of money and other resources. As people in our community face furloughs, layoffs and other financial challenges, the need to have access to low-cost and free food has increased.

You can help these local families. To make sure everyone is able to give back while keeping themselves safe we have put together a list of ways to help that can be done from home as well as in-person.

3 Ways to Help People Who are Food Insecure from Home

1. Donate

The easiest way to help from home – donate! The United Way of Southeast Mississippi works with local organizations like the Edwards Street Food Pantry, Christian Services and Extra Table who are all leading the fight against hunger in our community. 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.

2. Write a lawmaker

Recent legislative bills, like the CARES Act, do a great deal to support people who are food insecure. But there are many year-round anti-hunger programs that could use more support. You can help keep these important programs in place and encourage lawmakers to pass policies that prioritize access to healthy foods for families by writing letters or calling our local lawmakers. 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.
  • Support the Child Nutrition program reauthorization. Call on Congress to protect and strengthen access to these 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 stabilizes families when their incomes and assets are limited and ensures babies, mothers, children and families have access to nutritious food in tough times.
3. Call local farms, stores and restaurants about food rescue programs

Traditional sources of donations to food banks are changing. Most of our local partners used to rely on retailers and restaurants donating extra items. But as restaurants closed and retailers struggled to stock their shelves, donations from those sources decreased. With this turn of events, food banks are increasingly relying on food rescue programs. Volunteers can help from home by contacting possible suppliers, such as local farms that used to sell items to restaurants as well stores and restaurants that might have non-perishable items to see if they are willing to donate food.

5 Ways to Help People Who are Food Insecure In-Person

1. Donate non-perishable food

Donating non-perishable food items is a great way to give back. Families experiencing food insecurity 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 buy items, call ahead to a pantry to find out what they need most.

2. Pick up food from local farms, stores and restaurants

If a local farmer, grocery store or restaurant is willing to donate food, instead of throwing it out because it can’t be sold, volunteers might be needed to collect those items and transport them to local organizations.

3. Sign up for a shift at a food bank

Food banks may need volunteers to sort donations and serve food. Some organizations have shifted to preparing to-go boxes so customers do not have to enter the building. They could use volunteers to put items in these boxes and hand them out. 

4. Join a backpack food drive

With the closure of schools, many kids who received free or reduced school lunches, and sometimes breakfast, are going without those meals. Some local schools are providing take-home bags that give kids access to the healthy, nutritious food they are missing. Volunteers are possibly needed to collect items as well as organize the bags.

5. Meal delivery to seniors

More seniors are unable to go to the grocery store, so the need for home-delivered meals is growing. Delivered meals help seniors in need maintain a well-balanced diet and stay healthy. Volunteers prepare and deliver meals to seniors. Christian Services offers a Meals on Wheels program and has put in place measures to keep seniors and volunteers alike safe.

Thank you in advance for going the extra step for your neighbors. We’re in this together and our community is stronger because of your support!