Hunger and poverty affect far too many Americans. Here are the latest numbers from USDA’s “Household Food Security in the United States in 2014”:

Hunger

  • More than 48.1 million Americans lived in households that struggled against hunger in 2014. The 2014 numbers were a slight decline (of fewer than a million people) from 2013, with the rate declining from 15.8 to 15.4 percent.
  • The number of individuals in households that faced the deepest struggles with hunger – “very low food security” – was 5.5 percent in 2014.
    15.3 million children lived in food insecure households in 2014, compared to 15.8 million in 2013.
  • Households outside metropolitan areas (more rural areas) are seeing considerably deeper struggles with hunger compared to those inside metropolitan areas, with higher rates of food insecurity (17.1 percent compared to 13.5 percent), higher rates of food insecurity in households with children (23.6 percent compared to 18.4 percent), and higher rates of very low food security (7.3 percent compared to 5.3 percent).
  • Food insecurity rates for Black and Hispanic households were substantially above the national average, with 26.1 percent of Black households and 22.4 percent of Hispanic households reporting they struggled against hunger in 2014.
  • State food insecurity rates ranged from 22 percent of Mississippi households to 8.4 percent of North Dakota households for the period of 2012 to 2014, showing that no corner of the country is immune from food insecurity. (USDA uses three year averages for states to obtain adequate sample sizes.)

Hunger Resources from Global Partners:

  • There is a wealth of resources from the 11th Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation on the theme Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread. Visit the Assembly Study Materials page.

National Organizations:

  • Bread for the World  is a Christian education, policy and advocacy group that works with our nation’s leaders to end hunger
  • Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) is a national nonprofit organization working to improve public policies and public-private partnerships to eradicate hunger and under nutrition in the United States. Site includes state and regional hunger data.
  • Feeding America is the national network of food banks. Site has great resources for learning about hunger, Map the Meal gap local hunger tool, support for food and nutrition ministries

Pennsylvania Resources:

Congregational Hunger Ministries

  •  Starting a Food Ministry – There’s no single way to start or run a food pantry. Practice has shown that the most lasting programs are those designed and run by the people who use them, in response to actual community needs. Since each community is different, take time first to talk to people about what they need, and what kinds of programs they are looking for. Remember that hunger is a symptom of other challenges – lack of education, employment, opportunity or a result of the cost of housing, health care or other necessities. A hunger ministry could also be job training or counseling, tutoring, a health clinic or housing ministry, that helps neighbors move out of food insecurity.
  • ELCA World Hunger offers hunger grants to help local hunger ministries get off the ground.
  • Feeding America, the national network of food banks (central distribution points that provide food to pantries and other food programs, at very low cost) is a good resource. You can type in your zip code and find the food bank nearest you: they will tell you about specific policies, requirements, and issues in your area, and help you with all the logistics of setting up a pantry where you are. You can also find out who local pantries operate (monthly, weekly, if there are days or weeks not covered).
  • The USDA Summer Meal Program website has applications for becoming a summer meal site and information on existing sites in your area.
  • Setting up a food ministry? Visit other pantries and food programs in your community, and ask them about what works, what doesn’t , what they wish they could change. Green Light Food Pantries focus on providing fresh, local food to their service area. Additionally, speaking with local schools, senior centers, community outreach programs and other faith groups in your area can also help you get a bigger picture of local needs, resources and services.

Community Gardens

  • Garden Safe, Garden Well is a project of the Indiana University’s Center for Public Health and was adapted with permission by the Presbyterian Hunger Program. A handy feature of this guide is the ability for anyone to add local urban agriculture organizations and resources on the last page by typing into the PDF and saving, thereby customizing it to your community, town or city. The guide is an accessible primer on soil testing, including a myth-busting section, and it covers basic techniques for urban gardening.
  • Let’s Move offers a step-by-step guide which offers important information about how to safely grow your own fruits and vegetables with others in your community, including selecting a site, finding partners, identifying resources and designing your garden.
  • The American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) is a bi-national nonprofit membership organization of professionals, volunteers and supporters of community greening in urban and rural communities.
  • Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources community garden web page 
  • Penn State Extension offers classes and resources and trained Master Gardeners who are available for community gardening efforts.
  • Seedfolks is a short children’s novel written by Paul Fleischman. The story is told by a diverse cast of characters living on (or near) Gibb Street in Cleveland, Ohio, each from a different ethnic group. Chapter by chapter, each character describes the transformation of an empty lot into a vibrant community garden, and in doing so, they each experience their own transformations.