Many Americans believe that hunger is an issue that only plagues the ‘developing world.’ We like to take comfort in the simple belief that we have more than enough food here and that this is all that matters. They would be surprised then to learn then that 1 out of 6 people in this country are unsure, on any given day, about whether they will be able to feed themselves adequately. That is more than 50 million people in our communities that experience hunger every day!

The situation is also dire for our children – 15.9 million live in food insecure households. Part of the reason for this surprise is because hunger typically invokes images of famine, not food insecurity. We imagine the rest is due to the striking size of this food insecure population. This need has only become worse since the start of the recession in 2007. Food insecure members of our society are almost always its poorest members who increasingly have less nutritious diets than people with more buying power. Now more than ever, we need to be giving back to our communities to help the less fortunate know that they can at least eat enough every day – especially considering that the U.S. wastes 40% of the food it produces between farm and plate.

Here are a few ways to make your community more food secure:

Volunteer With or Donate to a Food Bank

Food banks are struggling to keep up with feeding those in need, even as donations increase because of growing awareness and the founding of new organizations dedicated to diverting perfectly good food from the landfill to these banks. If you can, please donate to food drives. As a volunteer, you can accomplish so much more. In addition to helping out at the food bank, volunteer to run food drives or even start a community table at your local farmers market to let anyone donate away their unwanted produce.

Share the Love!

Okay, so we can all agree that potlucks are amazing, right? Everyone brings more than enough food and goes home with a full belly in addition to a plate filled with a mix of delights. A great way to help your community is to pool the food that everyone would normally bring home and instead bring it to the homeless at a nearby shelter. Want to make it even more simple? Make it a point to invite someone you know who is food insecure and send them home with a ton of healthy food!

Start a Community Garden

No need to get super formal here – just start gardening and encourage others to help! Give a new friend some broccoli and they’ll have some food for the day. Teach this friend to garden and they’ll grow food for a lifetime. Providing some food for volunteers in exchange for their help with your garden is a super way to reduce food insecurity today and tomorrow. To be resourceful, it’s great to have some resources. Donated garden beds and free classes are great ways to increase food access for your community. Get involved!

Stand Up for Imperfect Produce

Between the farm and your plate, so much food is wasted because of imperfections. Thankfully this is beginning to change as some grocers and restaurants are partnering with farms and distributors to accept this perfectly edible produce. You can do your part by encouraging your local food businesses to work with this produce and sell it at a discounted price to those in need.

Eat Local Plants

It takes considerably more resources and land to produce animal products than it does to produce fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains for us to consume directly. We could increase the amount of food available to us immensely, reduce food waste due to long distance shipping and increase the nutritional content of this food by changing up our diets and shifting our resources to building local food economies.

Image source: Official U.S. Navy Page/Flickr