American people are starving by the millions. While numerous organizations flit about the globe, seeking to eradicate hunger overseas, one organization in Northeast Florida is showing a little TLC where it’s needed the most – at home.
Hunger Fight is a 2-year-old nonprofit organization with a different spin on tackling the local hunger crisis. It focuses on domestic hunger needs, providing meals for thousands of individuals along the First Coast. Just in North Florida alone, 342,000 people suffer from hunger every day, most being hard-working adults or seniors and children unable to provide for themselves. According to Dean Porter, co-founder and director of operations for Hunger Fight, the international battle against hunger leaves America overlooked.
“One in six Americans are going hungry every night and one in four of those are children,” Porter said. “If you ask Americans about hunger, they’ll tell you it’s the panhandlers, the vagrant and the homeless. In fact, it’s less than 10 percent of those that are considered food insecure and hungry. But that’s how jaded our minds are about hunger.”
Worldwide, hunger poses the greatest health risk to people, surpassing AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. But too often, Americans consider hunger more of an international problem than a backyard crisis.
“We’ve been policing the world and we’ve forgotten about home. It’s time to come back home,” Porter said.
With a domestic mindset and donations from schools, local businesses, civic organizations, churches and individuals, Hunger Fight packages thousands of meals a week. The organization sponsors “packaging events,” during which volunteers put together meal bags to distribute to churches and food pantries.
Porter said in one minimum packaging event, 10,000 meals are prepared in as little as two hours with the help of 48 volunteers. Each package contains six meals of rice and beans, macaroni and cheese and rice casserole. The food only needs 20 minutes of boiling water and each package costs a $1.50 or .25 cents a meal.
The biggest challenge aside from raising money and awareness is changing the way Americans view hunger.
“It can hit anybody. In the last seven years, it hit people who could never fathom finding themselves in a food pantry line because of the economy and being laid off,” Porter said. “You never know when it could affect your family, your friends or your neighbors. Hunger has no boundaries.”
Since April 2012, Hunger Fight has packaged nearly 830,000 meals with the help of volunteers and donations. For those looking to get involved, the organization provides plenty of ways to plug into the cause. Its “Color Me Fed” run is a great way for individuals to raise awareness, and anyone is welcome to join a packaging event or donate money online. People donating $10 or more receive a Friends of Hunger Fight card, which offers discounts from participating businesses.
For the price of a latte at Starbucks, over a dozen hungry Americans can eat a nourishing meal. A little pocket change and a lot of passion could change the hunger crisis in our own backyard.
Hunger Fight hopes to expand throughout the Southeast and eventually operate nationwide, but needs the help of volunteers and donations to raise awareness and money.
“We’re amazed at the participation level and how much people want to come back and continue support,” Porter said. “Come volunteer, it’s infectious and you’ll love it once you start doing it.”