Food is a right-now need, but it has long-term consequences. Undernutrition has significant long-term consequences that can keep someone from moving out of poverty due to chronic health conditions, increased stress on both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, mental health strain (your body is consistently in fight-or-flight mode), cognitive impairment, and other factors. In the U.S., it is also a problem because many people, including physicians, don’t recognize it as a problem. At the height of my physical impairment, I was low on Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, magnesium, and potassium–years after I ceased being “poor.” My early childhood years were relatively stable where food was concerned, but the years that weren’t stable had a long impact. Even now, my body does not process vitamins the way it should.
Here are a few things that you can do to help:
- Donations come in fast around Christmas time, but people are hungry year-round. Summers are especially difficult for families because children who might usually get free or reduced lunch at school aren’t getting it. Fall is a hard time of year because families have just paid for school supplies. Add a date to your calendar in the late spring, mid-summer, and early fall to donate.
- If you donate food to a food drive, be conscious of the nutritional value of the food you donate. For every 3 food items you donate, donate 1 non-food item (toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, deodorant, toothpaste, etc). Food stamps do not pay for non-food items.
- Volunteer for a gleaning organization. Gleaners pick up leftover crops from fields so that people have fresh produce. People with disabilities and many senior citizens rely on volunteers in order for them to participate in these activities.
- If you have some garden-able land that you aren’t using, consider allowing some families to set up a community garden on it.
- Consider lining your front yard with pick-able produce like string beans.
Have other ideas? Email them to me at larinamichelle(at)gmail.com and I will add them to the list.