Combatting Student Food Insecurity This Holiday Season
Helping Students in Need: A Guide to Fighting Food Insecurity During the Holidays
Experiencing hunger at any time of year is difficult and scary, but it can be especially challenging during the holiday season, when most people seem surrounded by abundance. Unfortunately, students of all ages may experience food insecurity, from kindergartners to college students. During school breaks, many children get less to eat since they usually receive lunch at school.
Globally, we produce more than enough food, and no one should have to go hungry, especially children and young adults, who are still growing. If you want to help ensure that students get enough food this holiday season, here are some things you can do.
Direct Students to School Resources
Many students are unaware that they can get help from their schools, even during breaks. Youngmi Kim, Ph.D., an associate professor at the VCU School of Social Work suggests that college students use their university as a resource if they’re struggling with food insecurity:
“Students are strongly encouraged to reach out to their campus food pantry and student services (e.g. Division of Student Affairs, University Counseling Services) for extended opening hours and holiday foods during this winter break. They also have information re: local food banks and community resources. Check out the dining halls/campus cafeteria opening hours as many are closed during this transition time.”
Some elementary schools even have their own food pantries, or will help connect families that are in need with community resources during the holidays and year-round. It’s important to make sure that students and their families know what assistance is available. If you’re a parent with a student in school, ask what kinds of resources are available and how you can help.
Set Up a Food Drive
If you know that children are going hungry in your community, you can help directly by setting up a food drive. Asking for items that food pantries never have enough of is a great way to help families facing food insecurity.
Setting up a food drive is easy. All you have to do is talk to your local food bank and find out what they need and how to support them with a food drive. Then, talk to your friends and neighbors, and spread the word throughout your community about what kinds of foods are needed the most, and where you’ll be collecting the items. Then, you can drop off all the donations at your local food bank.
Fundraise and Donate
Monetary donations are just as helpful as food items. If you aren’t able to set up a food drive, you can still donate or raise money for your local food pantries and other organizations that help needy families. Social workers and other professionals are highly trained and understand how best to use these funds for those who need them.
There are lots of ways you can fundraise for organizations combatting food insecurity. You can ask people to donate to your favorite charities instead of buying you a holiday gift. Or, you can get people to sponsor you for doing a specific activity, like running or biking to address student hunger in your community. Yard sales, GoFundMe pages—there are so many ways to raise money this holiday season, even if you’re not in a financial position to donate yourself.
Volunteer Your Time
Most food banks and other organizations for those in need are staffed almost entirely by volunteers. If you have time to spare this holiday season, helping out and donating your time is a great way to fight student hunger. Contact your local organizations and see what kind of help they need. Even if you only have a few hours to spare, you might be able to help.
Volunteering is a great way to feel connected with your community. Although they need the most help during the holiday season, most food pantries need volunteers year-round. If you find volunteering enjoyable and fulfilling, consider continuing after the holidays! Many people who volunteer with food banks commit to short weekly shifts.
Many people don’t realize just how many families and individuals struggle with hunger—it’s a major public health issue that often seems far away in the United States. People often don’t know how many kids only get a full meal at school and struggle to focus on their studies due to hunger. Raising awareness is important for getting people more invested in helping to fight food insecurity.
It’s never been easier to raise awareness about social issues like hunger during the holidays, thanks to social media. If you’re good at getting people talking, you can make a difference by making people aware of the additional need for food donations around the holidays. With so many food drives going on, you can help inspire people all over the country to pitch in.
We Can’t Forget About Hungry Students
It’s important for people to be aware that people struggle to put food on the table all year round, but during the holidays, food insecurity can feel especially painful. If you are able to help students who need food, you will make a huge difference in their lives.
We’re all busy during the holidays, but we can’t forget about hungry students, especially during school breaks. If you’re moved to make a difference in your community, addressing hunger is a very good way to start. Sharing your holiday spirit with the students in need in your own neighborhood will make your own holiday season that much more rewarding.
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