Imagine your neighbor who has been out of work and can no longer afford groceries. Or the young child who depended on the school lunch program that’s now unavailable with remote learning. As a program officer for the Lincoln Financial Foundation, I’m asked now more than ever about what it means to be food insecure.
Food insecurity is defined as having limited or uncertain access to enough food for every person in the household. In general, it describes stretching resources to make ends meet and making tough decisions between paying for housing, medicine or food. For some this may be temporary, the result of an emergency that causes a short-term financial burden. For many others, food insecurity is a longer-term problem as they juggle earning less than a living wage, healthcare bills, childcare, eldercare or disability.
Sadly, food insecurity knows no boundaries. It doesn’t just happen to other people in other cities. Food insecurity is found in every community across the country. Odds are that you know someone – from work, school or among your friends – that has or will experience hunger at some point in their lives.
According to the USDA’s latest Household Food Insecurity in the United States report, more than 35 million people in the U.S. struggled with hunger in 2019. Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, estimates that the number of food insecure has increased, because of COVID-19, to 54 million people, including 18 million children in 2020. Unfortunately, it is common that many who experience a food insecurity crisis do not qualify for federal nutrition programs and so they are left to depend on their local food banks to supplement their food supply. We’ve seen this playing out on national evening news with images of long lines at food distribution locations.
Making a Difference
I’m proud of Lincoln Financial’s response to food insecurity overall. For many years, our Foundation has identified and invested in the most effective food distribution and hunger relief programs in each of Lincoln’s communities. Lincoln’s locations include: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Concord, Dover, Fort Wayne, Greensboro, Hartford, Omaha, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Radnor.
Lincoln invests in food banks for the collection and distribution of nutritious food, mobile food pantries to bring fresh food into neighborhoods with little to no access to produce and dairy products, backpack programs to help school-aged children have access to healthy food over the weekend, meal delivery programs for seniors and soup kitchens for the homeless.
As the pandemic emerged and the shutdown began, Lincoln was well-positioned with food provider grantees to provide rapid relief and in March, Lincoln announced emergency funding of $1 million paid out to food provider grantees within days of the shut-down. This was followed by an announcement in May of another $1M in emergency funding for food, shelter and related services to aid the on-going effort to feed and house people in crisis.
In past years, various Lincoln office locations have hosted holiday food drives to benefit their local food banks. To honor that tradition while all of our employees are working from home, Lincoln hosted its first-ever virtual holiday food drive to benefit food banks in each Lincoln location. During November, the drive raised nearly $20,000 from 261 employees. Lincoln will match dollar-for-dollar the amount raised by employees for a total gift of $40,000 to support the food banks in our communities.
The easiest ways to help are donating, volunteering and organizing a food collection to benefit your local food bank. As the end-of-year holiday season is here and many of us will be making plans for family meals, it is a time to pause and think about those that have experienced crisis this year and may not have the necessary resources to feed their family. For more information on how you can help in the fight against food insecurity, visit www.FeedingAmerica.org