One in 7 Americans struggles to get enough to eat, according to Feeding America.
In 2015, 48 million Americans — including 15 million children and 5.4 million seniors — relied on Feeding America’s network of food banks. Yet Feeding America is just one of more than 90 Alliance to End Hunger members working together to lead the fight against hunger.
Over the last few years, VolunteerMatch has stepped up its support for hunger-fighting organizations. Fox example, we’ve developed a tool to help these organizations do what they do best: fight hunger and its root causes. In 2012, we even published a blog post on different ways hunger-fighting organizations could pursue out-of-the-box strategies.
In honor of Hunger Action Month™ this September, we’re revisiting the topic to highlight fresh solutions from those fighting hunger on the ground. Here are 7 innovative ways to fight hunger, and the nonprofits behind them.*
1. Empowering Self-Sustainability
A long-term strategy to fight hunger has been to empower those in need to become self-sustainable. That, in part, means educating them on how to fund, secure and cook their own nutritious food.
Historically, ACDI/VOCA has been one of the most notable organizations leading self-empowerment projects — from empowering disadvantaged groups to helping farmers implement climate-smart technologies. Other organizations, like Freedom From Hunger, design self-help microfinance programs that help women overcome poverty and feed their families, while organizations like Trees for the Future focus on providing scalable, agriculture solutions that provide families with sustainable food sources, livestock feed, and products to sell.
One organization leading the movement right here in the United States is D.C. Central Kitchen. With a mission to use food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities, the Kitchen empowers and employs those in need alongside volunteers. Through their Culinary Job Training Program, they’re helping lift more people out of poverty and into self-sustainability.
The D.C. Central Kitchen also has unique methods to hire and train volunteers. Learn more here.
2. Bringing Food Drives to Donors
If you live in or near a city, you’re likely familiar with the idea of food trucks: a food truck provides convenient — and often delicious — quick meals on wheels. Finnegans’ Reverse Food Truck and the Sacramento Reverse Food Truck are bringing the food truck concept to the nonprofit space. Rather than serving food to patrons, their trucks do the exact opposite — they accept food donations, helping “put hunger in the rearview”.
Other food trucks — like this one led by the Salvation Army, Cape Fear — recruit volunteers to drop off food to communities in need and to the pantries that serve those communities.
Could your hunger-fighting cause benefit from using a food truck? Share your thoughts in the comments!
3. Treating Those in Need with Dignity and Respect
The Kansas City Community Kitchen has been serving hot, nutritious meals for over 35 years. While the food they’re serving is gourmet and nutritious, it’s not the food that’s different — but the way they serve it. The Kitchen operates like a restaurant: their “waitstaff”serves patrons who visit, reminding us that treating people with dignity and respect can make a huge difference.
Set to open later this year, Carroll’s Kitchen is a gourmet restaurant that serves fresh, simple meals, while empowering homeless women in Raleigh, North Carolina. Another soup kitchen with an out-of-the-box approach is Miriam’s Kitchen in Washington, D.C. They use video to share stories of impact, highlighting the people they serve and their stories.
Not sure where to begin? Start small — check out VolunteerMatch’s Volunteer Spotlights for ideas on how to treat your volunteers (and the people you serve) with dignity and respect.
4. Partnering with Businesses in Your Community
According to their website, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign connects kids in need with nutritious food while teaching their families how to cook healthy, affordable meals. The campaign also engages the public to make ending child hunger a national priority.
One way they engage the public is through their annual “Dine Out for No Kid Hungry” national fundraising event. By partnering with thousands of restaurants, millions of consumers, and national corporate sponsors every September, they’re raising millions to win the fight against childhood hunger.
How does your organization partner with local businesses/restaurants to raise funds and awareness? Share your story in the comments!
5. Selling Helpful Products to Raise Funds and Awareness
Selling products to benefit your program(s) isn’t a new idea in nonprofit fundraising. Very often, though, these products can be poorly manufactured, and may even end up hurting the very communities you’re trying to help in the first place.
That’s where Fed by Threads comes in; they sell fashion-forward, sustainable, made-in-America clothing that — through their partners — provides real meals to people.
Founded by Lauren Bush Lauren in 2007, FEED is another nonprofit created with the simple idea of making high-end products that engage people in the fight against hunger. FEED also employs local artisans who design and produce bags that help provide 185+ school meals for children around the world.
6. Connecting Hunger-Fighting Communities
There are nonprofits that work to fight hunger on the ground, and then there are organizations that bring other hunger-fighting nonprofits together — providing a platform to share successes, network, and advocate for a common cause.
The Alliance to End Hunger brings over 90 members together — including nonprofits, faith-based organizations, universities, foundations, international organizations, and individuals to build the public and political will to end hunger. RESULTS is nonprofit that coalesces a movement of passionate, committed everyday people. Together, RESULTS’ passionate members leverage their voices to influence political decisions — in America and around the world — that will bring an end to poverty.
Meanwhile, Food Tank is a nonprofit focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters. They highlight environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable news and ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty. Ultimately, they’re creating networks of people, organizations, and content to push for food system change.
Are you a member of a hunger-fighting coalition? If so, how has your membership helped promote or strengthen your work?
7. Salvaging Food to Help Fight Hunger
Oftentimes, the solution for fighting hunger is right in front of us — in the form of food that goes to waste. Food that could be used to feed others in need.Nonprofits like the Food Recovery Network and the Campus Kitchens Project (CKP) partner with schools across the country to recover uneaten food from students. They also engage students as volunteers. Both organizations have collectively recovered and donated millions of pounds of food that would have otherwise gone to waste.
Organizations like City Harvest — the world’s first food rescue organization — are promoting multiple good-worthy causes at the same time. By recovering and delivering over 545 million pounds of food since 1982, they’ve prevented over 500,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas from being produced (the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road for a year).
A similar organization aptly named We Don’t Waste collects unused food from stadiums, venues, caterers, restaurants, and other food purveyors, and distributes that food to Denver’s underserved populations. Side note: a team of international chefs recently traveled to Rio de Janeiro to cook surplus food donated from the Olympic Village for Rio’s impoverished residents.
By teaming up with relocation companies across the country, Move For Hunger is creating one of the nation’s largest year-round food recovery programs. Their volunteer movers offer to pick up unwanted, non-perishable food items from those who are moving, and deliver it to local member food banks.
If you haven’t done so already, check out this free tool to evaluate your hunger-fighting volunteer engagement program. And this September, with a little forward thinking (and help from this blog post), make a commitment to strengthen your hunger-fighting efforts by adopting any one of these innovative solutions to your strategy.
Have a solution of your own to add? Please share it with us in the comments below!
*While we strive to be inclusive, this list is in no way exhaustive.