What I am watching: Manifest
What I am reading: Crucial Confrontations
What I am most thankful for: The community in Broomfield, Colorado. In my free time, I serve as the Chair for the Board of Trustees for my local food bank. In the last week, our community has been so amazingly generous with funds, and food including a last minute need for turkeys. I am also incredibly grateful for the support of our City Council and staff who support our work to address the needs out Broomfield residents.
Hunger is real in every city and corner of this country. Cities can be powerful allies in helping residents avoid homelessness and food insecurity. Without cities, it would expensive and difficult for the nonprofit sector to end homelessness and hunger in the community. Many big cities support these resources, but middle and smaller cities struggle with either resources or the will to acknowledge the problem. There are so many ways to help, big and small, short term and long term, so be creative and ask your local organizations about how you can help.
Here are a few ideas on how you can help.
- Recognize that homelessness and food insecurity are happening in your community. Measure it and talk about it because you can’t make progress until you know where you are. Having regular conversations with staff helps keep it in the front of their minds when they look at different projects or needs assessments within the community.
- Take proactive steps to educate staff about the resources available. In a lot of cities the staff that most routinely deal with these issues are the most aware of the different resources, but it doesn’t mean that other staff should be able to make referrals to various organizations. Make knowing the resources in your community part of your customer service strategy for everyone.
- One of the biggest challenges for food banks is keeping food and other items on the shelves, so supporting food drives in your spaces can help. High traffic areas like libraries and rec centers are great places for drop off points. I highly recommend food drive organizers ask if a tour is available from you local pantry. Tours will help you see the needs, but also help you understand their clients and what they like so you can target specific items or types of items.
- Some nonprofits working on these issues are small and contract out for some services like marketing, or IT. If you have a special or technical skill, think about how you can help with that aspect of an organization’s needs.
- Create hardship policies and scholarships, so that departments can waive fees for low income residents to access the same services that others do. Our fees shouldn’t stand between someone and their next meal.
- Host emergency food boxes. A regional pantry near me provides emergency food boxes with a two day supply of food. The boxes are located in partner organizations throughout the region and make emergency supplies more accessible to those in need or limited access to transportation.
It is also important to support the staff you pay the least. Admitting you need help to supply your family with basic needs is difficult for many people, especially someone in an authority position. If a staff member confides they need help, remember that they are taking a risk and placing a lot of faith in you. Treat them respectfully, give them dignity, and don’t make them tell their entire story. As different food banks have different qualifications, both adults in a home might be working or working more than one job doesn’t mean they don’t qualify. If you need to find a food bank check out Feeding America for a searchable database.