It's no secret that world hunger is still a problem being faced. In the United States alone, there are currently a myriad of people who are food insecure, which the USDA defines as "the lack of access, at times, to enough food for all household members." In 2013, 17.5 million households were food insecure, and did not know when they would have their next meal and where it would come from. In our own backyard of Miami-Dade County, 241,620 people are food insecure. That's about 9.1% of the Miami-Dade population, an astonishing number. 

Jami Harrison

A variety of reasons can cause food insecurity; for example, many Americans live in what they call food deserts, or places that have no access to nutritious, safe foods. While some of us might be at a walking distance of a Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, or local grocery store, the closest place to find food for many Americans might unfortunately be a gas station. Poverty is also a common cause of food insecurity.

This past week, I was given the opportunity to volunteer with FIU's food service company in the dining hall to measure plate waste, and the results were mind-blowing. Seeing the amount of untouched food going to waste, and then thinking about the millions of people on our very campus and county who have been going hungry for days, was enough to make me research what we can all do as a county to fight food insecurity. The reality is that 40% of food in the United States is wasted; that's enough to feed 25 million Americans! Something has to be done.

nachos, pizza, chicken
Laura Quinting

No matter who you are and what you do, it's important to realize that anything you do now towards fighting food insecurity in our county and ensuring that those lacking nutritious, safe food are receiving it makes a huge difference. We are so lucky to live in an area filled with organizations that strive and do their best to put food on the table for food insecure people in Miami-Dade.

Want to help out? Here are 5 ways you can (even on campus!).

1. Feeding South Florida

Feeding South Florida is South Florida's extension of Feeding America, a non-profit organization which feeds millions of Americans through food banks, soup kitchens, shelters, and more. I've had the privilege of volunteering at Feeding South Florida's warehouse numerous times, and every time, I have left feeling eternally grateful for this organization. One of the many things they do is collect left-over packaged foods that were left unsold in supermarkets such as Publix, and put them into categorized boxes (beverages, cereals, canned goods, condiments, etc.) which they then send off to households in South Florida which are in need of food.

As a volunteer, you get to sort through all the foods coming in, making sure they are safe and good to use, categorize them, put them in boxes, weigh the boxes, and then give them to FSF, who is responsible for distributing the boxes in the next coming days. It's impossible to leave there without a smile on your face, knowing that you just saved tons of food that would have otherwise been thrown away.  I recommend this opportunity to anyone; you are directly fighting food insecurity and preventing food waste, ensuring that those in need in our city get food on their plates.

2. JCS Kosher Food Bank

There are over 100,000 Jewish people living in South Florida, with many of those being home-bound seniors or food insecure families. The Jewish Community Services' Kosher Food Bank is the only food bank in South Florida where Jewish people in need who observe the Kosher dietary laws can get food. The food bank, which is laden with kosher canned goods, condiments, beverages, cereals, and pasta, among many other non-perishable foods, is located in the heart of North Miami, and is open to any Jewish person with the simple scheduling of an appointment. 

The JCS Food Bank is always looking for donations and volunteers to ensure that they are always supplied and ready to give out plenty of food to anybody who needs it. You can donate Kosher foods with the appropriate symbols, donate money, organize a food drive where all items collected are donated to the food bank, or volunteer at the bank stocking shelves and bagging groceries. To become a volunteer, don't hesitate to check out their page.

3. FIU's Student Food Pantry

FIU's Student Food Pantry is made with one goal in mind: to help those students who do not have enough money to buy food. Located in both MMC and BBC, the Student Food Pantry is donation-based, and is stocked up with all kinds of foods for students in need to grab and take. No proof of need is required, just an FIU OneCard. Students can visit the pantry once a week and take up to 10 pounds of food. Want to help your fellow peers? Any food donations are always accepted! Drop them off at the Healthy Living Program offices. You may also volunteer at the food pantry, organizing shelves and assisting students. Click here for more information about how you can be of help to Panthers in need.

4. PantherChow at FIU

PantherChow is a new organization on FIU's campus with a mission: making food easily accessible to low-income students. What this organization has set out to do is re-purpose any food left from any campus events, whether it be bagels and coffee from a morning meeting, or leftover catered food from a fancy event, and redistribute it to food insecure students on campus. PantherChow representatives will be contacted via an app whenever there is food left from an event, and they will send out volunteers to pick it up, wrap it safely, and distribute the food to the students. This organization simultaneously fights food insecurity and food waste, making sure that no person on campus is left behind without eating, and that no precious food is thrown away. For more information, follow their Instagram account for official updates!

5. Meals on Wheels

Most counties in the nation have a Meals on Wheels extension, but do you really know how powerful it is? Meals and Wheels delivers nutritious meals to low-income, home-bound seniors every week. For 7 days, these individuals are ensured frozen meals which are easy to heat up, along with staples such as milk, bread, and fresh fruit. Meals on Wheels gives these individuals something to smile about in the midst of their hardships, all with the lovable gift of a meal and a friendly visit. Without an organization like this one, who knows how many older adults would be left without a meal? There's nothing I love more than an organization that provides not just nourishment through food, but through warm love and care. To volunteer and help pick up and deliver meals to home-bound seniors, you can sign up here.

cereal, Aloe vera, herb, Trader Joe's, shopping basket, Market, Grocery
Caroline Ingalls

Whatever it is that we do, we are all a pivotal ingredient in ensuring that every person in our community is well fed. You might not be ending world hunger, but every small deed, whether you see it or not, is helping our world take a step toward fighting food insecurity. We are all humans with the right to have nutritious food at the tip of our finger at every moment, food that nourishes our minds, bodies, and souls and makes us the best version of ourselves. Don't forget, it's the little things that make a huge difference. 

How will you help fight food insecurity?