At Curtis Food Recruiters, volunteering in our community has always been a fundamental core value for us. After such a long and challenging year, our team felt especially moved this holiday season to raise awareness throughout our networks on the importance of giving back.
It didn’t take us long to single out a cause that we felt was especially vital after the events of this year: food banks.
The charitable food system is a critical service for people in need in nearly every community across the United States. As financial hardships have increased dramatically due to the effects of the pandemic, hunger is becoming an even more prevalent concern than during the financial crisis of 2008.
The term “food insecurity” describes when a person lacks consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Today, more than 80% of food banks are serving more people than they were a year ago, and the number of people who are food insecure in the US could rise to more than 50 million by the end of the year, including 17 million children.
Feeding America, one of the nation’s largest anti-hunger organizations, distributed “4.2 billion meals from March through October. The organization has seen a 60 percent average increase in food bank users during the pandemic: about 4 in 10 are first-timers.”
More than just sharing statistics, though, we wanted to give readers a more involved look at the impact of food banks on their communities, so we reached out to one of our local favorites in our home state of Minnesota: CROSS Services.
For years, we’ve held CROSS near and dear to our hearts for their incredible service to communities across Minnesota by providing food assistance programs, financial assistance programs, kids programs, and much more.
We wanted to offer our readers the chance to get to know CROSS a little bit better and, more importantly, the people they work so hard to help.
Thankfully, Elizabeth Brown, CEO of CROSS Services was generous enough to sit down with us and answer a few questions:
Could you educate readers about the current hunger issues in the community?
There are several food sites popping up here and there for “short-term” gap-filling, but this is not the work that CROSS does with families. Not having enough food or not being able to pay your rent/mortgage, not being able to put gas in your car to get to work…These are just the result of so many other areas of need.
Many people have lost jobs they have held for years; their entire industry is damaged in some cases and they might not have a job to go back to. As an example, one family came in with this situation:
Not only had they lost their job and needed food and housing help, they feared there was no option to go back into that industry. Our Family Resource Manager provided the food, the housing support, and then connected them to a free job counseling service. The father stopped in last week to thank the CROSS staff person and let him know that he was starting a new job in a new industry this week. It’s never just about hunger – hunger is the sign that much more help is needed. This is where CROSS steps in to be that connector.
Could you clear up any confusion about the types of people who receive help through your organization?
Many people needing services during this time are new to asking for help. CROSS is seeing many families never before needing these services.
60% of those coming to CROSS are working at least one job (many working more than one job); even during a “normal” time in our world, it is very difficult to stay ahead of rent/mortgage, transportation costs, health insurance, and raising children.
Many people making even $17 per hour, which is a good wage, have no funds left each month after just paying for housing, transportation, and child care so they can work. This is where CROSS comes in to help families through with more than just food and housing. We provide the connection to the community and to other resources, here at CROSS and across our region.
What’s the best way for people to donate?
There are a lot of great options to give. It could be through a cash donation, or volunteering your time; no amount is too small. Look at your charity’s website for preferred options for donating. In addition to traditional methods, many are using technology such as Venmo, Square or Paypal to make giving as easy as possible. In Minnesota, you could also go to GiveMN.org which allows you to find and support various charities all from one website; look for similar organizations in your state for online giving.
Is there anything else you think is important to know for people looking to give back this holiday season?
The holiday season is traditionally stressful…I heard one mom say that it is just MORE of everything. You have to do everything you have always done to survive, and during the holidays, it’s just MORE…Leaving people tired, frustrated, poorer, and more anxious…In this time of “just MORE” we need to also have MORE patience, MORE faith, and MORE care for others.
CROSS will continue to do our work as faithfully and compassionately as we always have. We are grateful and dependent on the community for allowing us to do this work for families in our community.
The impact of organizations like CROSS depends largely on donations and volunteers from their communities. To find a local food bank near you, follow this link.