By Guest Blogger Leslie Loyd, A Simple Gesture

When you think about those who are hungry in Guilford County, who do you picture? A child living in public housing in downtown Greensboro or Winston coming home to an empty refrigerator? A child living in a mobile home in Walkertown or Stokesdale who has nothing but peanut butter crackers to eat for the weekend? A child right down the street from you whose family is struggling to afford the high price of groceries on top of rent, transportation, child care, and medical costs?

It turns out all of those images are real. In Guilford County Schools, 66.3% of students — 44,317 children — live in poverty. So that includes students in downtown areas, suburbs, rural areas, and right down the street. In Burlington-Alamance County Schools, 62.9% of students (14,283 children) qualify for free and reduced lunch, and in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools 58.6% (30,735 children) qualify. That’s over 89,000 children in our area who are at risk for not having enough food each day.

Hunger Awareness

Raising a family is expensive, and that shows up in the hunger data provided by Feeding America:

  • Families with children are much more likely to face hunger. 
  • Black and Latino children are twice as likely to face hunger. 
  • About a third of households headed by single mothers experience food insecurity. 

June Is Hunger Awareness Month

As we head into the summer months, many students lose access to school-provided breakfast and lunch; and families aren’t always able to absorb the extra expense of serving more meals at home. June is Hunger Awareness Month, making it a great time to launch a food drive for your local food pantry.

Tips & Tricks for a Super-Successful Food Drive

What turns a solid food drive into a super-successful effort? Here’s what food pantries across the Triad want you to know:

  • Find out from the food pantry if they’re in need of particular items. Sometimes it’s the items food donors might not think about—flour, sugar, salt and pepper, breakfast cereal—that are in shortest supply. 
  • Throw out a friendly food drive challenge. Find a similarly sized Scout troop to compete against, provide an incentive to the Sunday School class that brings in the most food, challenge your neighborhood to fill a certain number of bags of food, or compete against your own group’s results from last year. 
  • Give your food drive a theme. Choose a theme based on the time of year, the type of food being collected, or your group’s name. “Stock up for Summer,” “Can-Do Canned Food Collection,” and “Bring on Breakfast!” add an element of interest to your food drive.
  • Dress up your drop-off box. If you’ll have drop-off boxes to collect the food, include the pertinent information (food drive start and end dates, types of food needed, pantry the food will go to) but also invite kids or artsy friends to decorate the box for extra attention. You could even host a collection box decorating contest.
  • Consider culturally appropriate foods. Ask the pantry you’re donating food to if they need particular items, such as basmati rice or mung beans. Finding familiar foods to make favorite recipes can mean a lot to a family going through lean times.
  • Give food on an ongoing basis. A Simple Gesture offers an easy and convenient way to support your local food pantries on a regular basis. Food donors receive a green reusable grocery bag and fill the bag with nonperishable food over a two-month period. Then, on the designated pickup date (always a Saturday), donors place their bags on their front porch. A Simple Gesture’s volunteers pick up the bag and take it straight to the food pantry, and they leave an empty bag to repeat the process two months later. So easy! You’ll find that your children enjoy helping to pick out items to put in the bag and being in charge of putting the bag on the porch. Even the busiest families can squeeze in a project like this.

Ready to request your A Simple Gesture reusable grocery bag? To sign up in Guilford County, click here. To sign up in Alamance County, click here. In Forsyth County a new chapter is forming, so email to be alerted once this chapter is up and running.

Regularly donating food to support our local food pantries provides a great example of working together and giving back, one that will make a lasting impression on toddlers and teens alike!