Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we see an outpouring of generosity during what some consider “the giving season.” When the season ends, the need remains, especially for those who provide food for the needy.
In fact, the demand for donations is the highest during the summer, when kids are home from school. In many cases, the only meal a child receives a day is through the National School Lunch Program, which offers free or reduced lunch to low-income children through their school. On average, this program provides meals to more than 30 million children a day. When school is out of session, families become more reliant upon community services.
DES Gives Back
When United Food Bank delivered 100 food boxes to the office on Valentine’s Day as a part of its “Share the Love Week,” Kim Scianni, an administrative assistant with the DES Division of Developmental Disabilities, began to coordinate with staff to identify families who would benefit most from a food box. Each box would provide four days of food to a family for four. “My goal is to have a small supply of these boxes onsite throughout the year for families that are in need,” said Kim.
The DES Coordinated Hunger Relief Program (HRP) works with various federal, state and local organizations to provide food assistance. HRP contracts with Community Food Bank, United Food Bank and St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance who then partner with many other organizations and faith-based agencies to help those that are food insecure. “The need for food is year-round,” said Gloria Garcia-Hernandez, Interim HRP Manager. “We don’t just stop eating after November and December.” She explains that people are more inclined to donate towards the end of the year for tax deductions.
“August is a tough month,” said Irma Leyendecker, Volunteer Services Manager at St. Vincent de Paul, a nonprofit organization that serves individuals and families in need. “Kids go back to school, so money is tight on school supplies, new clothes, shoes, etc. Also, families who work jobs related to our travel and tourism industry have a difficult time because their hours may be less during our hot season.”
In November and December of 2017, St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance had 635,524 pounds of food from food drives compared to 447,572 pounds in July and August of 2017. That is a 29.5% decrease in the amount of pounds through food drives from “the giving season” to the months with the highest need.
Not only do donations drop off after the holidays, but volunteerism at the food banks as well. St. Vincent de Paul is reliant upon volunteers for 95% of its services. In December 2016, the organization logged 25,628 volunteer hours. The following August, they received only 17,253 volunteer hours.
Although donations are always accepted, the food banks and distribution sites need volunteers year-round to package, sort and distribute the food. As you sit inside avoiding the heat this summer, consider giving back to the community by helping out a food bank or distribution site.
You can sign up to volunteer at St. Mary’s Food Bank, United Food Bank and Community Food Bank via their websites.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) provides food to people experiencing homelessness, low-income senior citizens, families and individuals. To find food banks and distribution sites near you, visit the DES website.
By Isabella Neal