Going Hungry in America

**Underlined words contain clickable links that will take you to articles, sources, or information about how to find help. Click them for more information. **

In the US, more than 16 Million children face hunger every year.

I can tell you that being hungry as an American child is a strange experience. Food. Is. Everywhere. You walk through a world as though separated by a glass wall. You alone know that you are hungry. You know that asking for food is not allowed. You can dream, you can obsess, you can watch, but you can’t have it. “In the U.S., hunger is caused by the prevalence of poverty, not food scarcity. Stable food access is often blocked for low-income families that struggle to balance the need for food with other basic necessities.”

A. Sage, age 12.

Hungry children can look ‘normal.’ If they are getting some food they may not even look thin. They may look ‘ok’ to your eyes while suffering daily. They may eat poor quality, high-calorie foods that are over-processed. Nutritious foods in stable supply make all the difference. Children who experience mild-moderate hunger are known to suffer long-term chronic illness, dental problems, and psychological effects after prolonged hunger.

There is a video that emotionally illustrates what life is like for hungry children in cities. A little girl is dressed poorly and stands on a city street. People pass her by, even tell her to leave. When she is clean and nicely dressed, everyone tries to help her.

The best I could do when I was young was to stay home. If I was out, I pretended to be fine while I longed to eat a slice of pizza at the end of a ball game or to join in at a neighbors party where I could see tables loaded with snacks. Being offered food was magic.

At the grocery store when I was 10, I had only a few dollars. I tried to buy some bread and peanut butter. When the total rang up to more than I had, my brother burst into tears because we were going to have to put something back. That’s when a stranger offered to pay for the lot, and we were stunned. We were able to take all the food and keep our money. We took the food home, then went back to the store to buy more things, amazed that someone would help us like that.

Right now, with the majority of children at home full-time, I worry about how many of them are missing meals. I live in a state, a county, and a city where programs exist that help people feed their children, without question. We access some of the programs because we qualify for them, and because they help us focus on other things (like making sure we can keep the heat on through the coming winter, and keeping the kids busy while we can’t do any of our normal activities). It also helps the programs get funding if they are utilized. I hope that other families are able to access the food they need, but I see barriers: Do they have time to go pick up meals, time to cook the food, a car to access it, can they even find a program near them?

I never want anyone to be hungry in our country when so much food goes to waste. Some schools are now packaging leftovers as ready-heat meals for students to take home, but many times when I was dumpster-diving I found piles of perfectly good food just tossed into the trash. There were fresh fruits and vegetables as well as packaged foods that are, thankfully, donated to food banks more nowadays. It is such a shame.

I decided to write this today in hopes that if you are hungry you might find what you need here. If anyone is hungry, write to me and I will try to find you help. The following is a list of programs that are currently running, nationwide:

USDA Farm to Family Offers a box of fresh farm food delivered to families weekly.

Free Lunch Program offers two meals a day for all children under the age of 18 and has been extended until June of 2021.

Food Banks are feeding families, despite the pandemic. Demand is higher than ever. If you need food, follow the hyperlink above to find a food bank that can help. If you don’t need food, send up gratitude, and consider donating your time or money to one of the ones near you.

P-EBT Is a federal program that issues food stamps to families that qualify for free or reduced lunches at school. This is a debit card you can use for food at any grocery store.

Recipes to use up Food Bank supplies.

Creative meals

Please stick with me as I attempt to use tech in new and interesting ways. This article will (eventually) have hyperlinks to the recipes themselves. If it works, items that have been underlined will lead you to other websites where I found recipes that worked well.

Food banks are amazing. They offer free food packages to families in need. Service varies by state, county, and town. In general, they all have an abundance of dry goods. Anyone who has survived with the help of food bank programs knows that after several weeks a household can end up with an abundance of supplies that can be difficult to integrate into menu items. I have experienced periods of my life where it was necessary getting creative with staples from the food bank programs. I have a few ideas that are pretty popular. I will link them here as I learn how to do so.


  • Chicken pot pie: For this recipe, I mix two packets of “gravy” mix, a can each of drained carrots, corn, peas, and chicken (larger sized). If I have any I will dice potatoes and onions and cook them in some butter before mixing the gravy into the water. I do this all in the same pan. This is the filling to put into whichever crust you might have on hand. This can be made with variations for crusted, crust-less, and a Deconstructed version to use up Biscuit mix. If you try it, leave a comment below to let me know if you and your family enjoy it as much as we do?
  • Fry-bread / Fried dough is a great way to uses up dry flour, powdered milk, and vegetable oil. This can be served with chili and taco toppings, covered in a stew for a tasty, filling dinner, or as a dessert with honey butter and powdered sugar. Mmmmmmm. Not that there is any leftover, but if some pieces survive the onslaught of your horde it can be lain flat to freeze, then put into a zipper in the freezer. They work well in a toaster to re-heat. The same process works for leftover pancakes or french toast. Indeed, many times I have made triple-batches of these recipes just so that I could freeze a portion of them for quick meals to be pulled out later. What a time saver!
  • Vegetable soup. It was a revelation to me that I could add various canned vegetables to a pan and it would become soup! I use canned vegetables of several varieties, tomato paste or sauce, and dry beans can be added, soaked or not. Whatever you have in your stores. I usually start all my soups with a quart of broth, which can be homemade from leftover bones and veggies or canned. See the link below for a simple at-home broth. Usually, it takes a bit of tweaking to figure out which spices and flavors taste best, but this is by far the best and simplest way to use up those cans. Soup can also be frozen in small containers and brought out later for quick healthy meals.
  • Goulash. I think of goulash as a dry-soup. I use whatever pasta I have on hand and cook that until it’s just under-done. I add canned or frozen veggies and a can of pasta sauce. I might even throw in canned soups that are hanging around. I add the pasta once everything else has had time to heat through. This can be made in a meat or veggie version. Add salt, pepper, and garlic to taste.
  • What to do with canned cranberry sauce: You can make muffins, cookie bars, smoothies, or add to turkey sandwiches! I love cranberry sauce on my sandwiches.
  • Canned pumpkin. This changed my life. When I realized that pumpkin could go way beyond the pie, I realized how much I loved pumpkin in everything. My favorite recipe is to make a curry garlic pumpkin soup. We also like to make pumpkin pancakes. Let me know how you like to use up your pumpkin?
  • Make your own broth: It’s amazing how simple it is to create delicious, nutritious veggie or bone broths from the food you might otherwise have thrown away. I try to keep a zipper bag in my freezer and add the ends of veggies I’ve used in other recipes. when the bag gets full I dump the whole thing in a pot with water. I usually add any bones I have as well. I let it simmer with a little bit of vinegar added, sometimes overnight. This can also be done in a crockpot. Can be refrigerated or frozen. I suggest using smaller containers so you can pull out as much or as little as you need.
  • Easy dinners with rice as a base: There are so many ways to eat rice. Even leftover cooked rice can be turned into appetizing meals. I’ve made casseroles, Risotto, Fried rice, Veggie rice bowls (with or without egg), Rice cakes, and scrumptious easy rice pudding. For the pudding, I add a can of sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon, and raisins to a pan. I warm it up, adding a splash of water or milk if needed to thin it out. When it is warm enough to steam a little I add the cold leftover rice and stir until it is all warm.

I hope you find some use for the lingering items in your kitchen. If I have missed any good ones, please let me know in the comments below.

If you are hungry click here to find a food bank near you.