National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week

Thanksgiving is just 11 days away, when many of us will feast with family and friends to proclaim our thanks for all we have. In the spirit of this holiday, each year the National Coalition for the Homeless and National Student Campaign against Hunger and Homelessness set aside the week prior to Thanksgiving as National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week.

As a Christian, I am called to feed the hungry and clothe the poor.  Growing up, I was always told about the poor children in third world countries.  While those children do exist in overwhelming numbers, it is often easy to overlook the poor in America, in Wisconsin, and yes, even right here in the La Crosse area.

The statistics are compelling:

  •  Each night there are approximately 770,000 people in the United States who are homeless.
  • There are an additional 700,000 children without a place to call home and who go to bed hungry nightly.
  • One in six American families live below their respective poverty thresholds.
  • Fifty million Americans live in food insecure households.
  • 573,800 people in Wisconsin rely on Feeding America food banks for food each year.  37% of those are children under the age of 18 and 7% are senior citizens.
  • People  in Wisconsin needing supplemental food are making difficult choices.  44% choose between food and paying their utilities.  35% choose between food and paying the rent/mortgage.  31% choose between groceries and medical care.
  • 21 percent of children in Wisconsin don’t know where their next meal will come from.
  • Demand at local food banks in the La Crosse area increased 11 percent in 2010.
  • My local church, First Free, has a food pantry that serves approximately 70 families a month, as well as church family in need.
The need can seem so great, and what we can give may seem so small, it hardly seems worth the effort.  That could not be further from the truth.  It takes all of us working together, giving what we can, to make a difference.
Here are some suggestions for ways to help:
  • Donate food or cash to your local food pantry. Even adding one or two items to your grocery cart each week can mean a substantial once a month donation.
  • Engage your family in a learning event.  For example, The Wisconsin Food Share program provides food assistance at approximately $3 per person, per day.  Try planning meals for your family for one day staying within this budget.
  • National Smoke Out Day is November 17.  Consider quitting smoking and donate the money you save to a local shelter or food pantry.
  • Collect food for local food banks by offering an incentive at your place of business for anyone who brings in a canned food item.
  • Volunteer at your local food pantry.
For my blog readers who attend First Free, next Sunday (November 20) is “No-Lug Sunday”.  As you enter the parking lot, drop off your food items at the white truck, and they will “lug” the groceries in to the food pantry for you.  They are also asking for donations of turkeys or hams (or the cash to purchase them), as they try to provide a nice Thanksgiving dinner for the families.  For more information or to donate, contact Gordon Reberry at or 608-397-7859.
Below is a list of the items currently needed at the First Free food pantry.  I’m sure these items would be also be appreciated at ANY food bank you choose to donate to.
Vegetable oil
Canned soups and vegetables
Crackers – saltine, snack, and oyster
Graham crackers
Cake mixes and frosting
Canned chicken and Spam
Pasta sauces
Skillet dinners
Macaroni & cheese
Instant and long cooking white rice
Potato, pasta, and rice side dishes
Non-sugar coated cold cereals
Pancake mix
Pancake syrup
Jelly or jam
Fruit juice
Dish soap (small bottles of Dawn preferred)
General purpose cleaners
Bathroom cleaners
Tampons and feminine pads
Laundry detergent (they use 15-20 per week)
Toilet paper
Paper towels
Wet wipes
Diapers (3,4,5,6)
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