More than three million children died of undernutrition in 2011, many of them in countries that are not suffering from famine or conflict. While you can always throw a fund-raiser and donate some money or cans of food, there are other ways that more effectively solve hunger in a way that is much more sustainable.
Ending Hunger Locally
Donate food items. There are lots of local organizations that will take food donations. They will then distribute those food items as needed. This is safest and easiest for you and these organizations will know the best ways to get the food to those most in need. There are lots of foods that are good to donate but canned food and a smaller portion of healthy, fresh food is best. Ask your local organization for what they need most.
If you have a membership to a bulk foods store like Costco, this is a great place to pick up food for donating. You’ll get more food for your money and it tends to be the kind of easy to store items that work well for distributing to the needy.
Local churches, soup kitchens, shelters, and even government organizations will take donations of food to redistribute to the needy. Find one that matches up with who you’re looking to help.
Support organizations that distribute food. You can help those churches and shelters by doing more than just donating food too. They also need money to stay open and pay the people that work there. They often also need volunteers to help distribute the food. Ask them when you donate your food items about other ways that you can help.
For example, call your city and find out if you can help the local Meals On Wheels program deliver food.
Take food directly to those in need. You don’t need to wait for a food shelter in order to distribute food items to people that you know are in need. Buy healthy food that doesn’t require anything to be prepared and take it to homeless people that you see in your daily activities. For example, buy a bunch of bananas and hand them out to the homeless people downtown.
Another common demographic of people that go hungry are the elderly. Older people living on their own often have limited money and may not be capable of cooking very much for themselves any more. If you know someone who’s very old and might struggle making themselves a good dinner, offer to bring and have dinner with them every now and again.
Good examples of foods to take include: sliced soft apples (like Gala), whole bananas, a portion of a loaf of whole grain bread, pop-open containers of tuna, soy nuts (bought in bulk, these a quite cheap and they contain a massive amount of nutrients in a very small serving), and pre-cut carrots (cut as thinly as possible).
Get your employer involved. Many businesses will do donation matching. Talk to your boss about getting your business involved if they aren’t already. This will mean that any money or goods you do donate will be matched by your employer, effectively doubling the amount of good that you do.
Fight stereotypes. In more and more cities, you’re seeing laws put in place that actually ban feeding the homeless. The idea is that if they’re hungry, they’ll be more willing to work hard to get a job, stop taking drugs, and get back on their own two feet. However, the stereotype that homeless people are lazy people who just want to have fun abuse every substance they can get their hands on is just that: a stereotype. People who are homeless may have many reasons for being so, most of those reasons being very complex and requiring more than just motivation to overcome. Starving these people will not help and you need to make sure people in your community understand that. Do your best to educate people and prevent this from happening.
Ending Hunger Internationally
Do some research to better understand where and what help is needed. As with most things, if you go into a situation with only your assumptions or outright bad information, you’re likely to cause harm or at least not do any good. This applies to methods for solving hunger too. Certain types of donations in some regions are fuel for conflict with warlords. While you might want to help people in one country, you might actually be able to help three or four times as many people by helping in another country. World hunger is not a simple problem and the solution isn’t just as simple as sending cans to Africa: just as with most complex problems, you’ll need information if you want to leave a real impact.
Check out sites like the United Nations World Food Programme to learn more about the hunger situation in the world.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also do good work on educating about world hunger. See their site for more information.
Be careful what food products you buy. When some products are bought in large amounts, it can actually harm the areas where those foods are grown. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes growing too much of the same thing is bad for the soil but farmers do it anyway because it’s the only way to survive. Other times, it can deplete the amount of food available for the people in that region, if the crop had previously been used for locals. Either way, your best bet is to buy mainly local food and supplement your diet with these popular superfoods.
Donate to the right charities. There are more than a few “charities” out there that say they help solve world hunger but actually spend most of the money you give them on CEO paychecks. You also want your money to go towards long-term solutions, rather than just a band aid. This is why it’s important to give to charities which are reliable and use the money in a way that helps communities long term. Teach a man to fish and all that.
One great charity that you can donate to is Heifer International. This allows you to donate farm animals to people in need, allowing them to start producing their own food so that they are not reliant on continued donations.
Another good option is Charity: Water. This charity provides clean water to communities, meaning that not only can they drink safely, but that all of their food can be made more safely.
Kiva is a microfinance organization through which you can make loans to entrepreneurs in the developing world, so they can grow their businesses. You can donate very small amounts, and when you are repaid you can lend the same money out to someone different. These businesses often revolve around providing food for families and communities, so this is another effective charity.
Buy Fair Trade. Items marked Fair Trade with the international Fair Trade symbol are a great way for you to help feed other people while you eat. How? Fair trade items are bought from producers, like Guatemalan farmers, at a price that is fair for that region. It means that the company buying the goods also invests money in those communities to improve their lives, education, and access to supplies. This means that these people will have more money with which to buy things like food for their families. Buying a lot of items like this also sends a message to companies. As consumers, we can use our money as our voice. If enough people are buying these kinds of products, then more of them will be offered.
Support immigration reform. You don’t have to support letting everyone who calls at the border into the country but supporting some laws which change how immigration works can significantly improve the lot of people who live outside your country as well. Immigration reform, which regulates the work that non-citizens can do and how much money they can make, helps ensure that they get enough money to feed themselves and their family. The reasons why immigration effects hunger are two-fold:
People from poorer countries used to frequently provide labor in wealthier countries before returning to their own. Now, with heavily guarded borders and stricter immigration laws, fewer people that get into a country can get back out. This means that they have less opportunity to bring the money they earn to their families.
The other problem is that strict immigration laws create a situation in which unscrupulous employers can pay illegals next to nothing and under the table, meaning that those people go hungry even though they work hard.
Use your skills to volunteer. If you have valuable skills, like knowledge of farm equipment, horticulture, construction, project management, or fundraising: donate your time. Organizations often want to do good work but lack the people with the necessary skills to help the communities they travel to. If you know how to do anything like this, taking a month to travel to a remote location and help set up a farm can be a huge help.
Even if you don’t have these skills, you can help with your money. Throw a fundraiser and donate that money to some of the charities that we’ve mentioned. What you don’t want to do is travel overseas to do volunteer work that you have no experience with. This can often weigh a project down.
Stick to your goal, even if it does not pull through the first time. Persevere. Remember people out there who hear about your cause will be helping out.
Keep your goal within reach. Do not start out with ending world hunger, that’s about 60,000,000 goals packed into one deliciously impossible goal.
Make sure others who are sponsoring you have to pull through, and make sure other funds you participate in or donate to are also legally sound, just to stay safe and not end up increasing the tobacco industry instead of decreasing world hunger.
Make sure your funds are approved and legal…you don’t want to end up in jail for trying to help end world hunger!
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How to Help Save the World
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How to Be a Socialist
Sources and Citations
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