Rising food costs and higher costs of living in general make it very difficult for some families to feed their children adequately.
A recent report by the hunger relief charity Feeding America states that approximately 15 percent of American households didn’t have enough money for food at some time in 2009. And in 2011, 45.8 million Americans were receiving food aid from SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that replaced the Food Stamps program in 2008.
This situation is described as “food insecurity” and not only affects children physically, but also emotionally. Going to bed hungry is the last thing a parent wants for their child, but it’s the sad reality for many families across America.
What do you do if you can’t afford to feed your children? Here are some ways to ensure everyone in the household has enough to eat each and every day:
Head to the food banks.
Find out where the local food banks and ask them whether you would be eligible to receive some food for free. Many churches donate food to area families, and local food banks are open during certain hours of the day for food pickups. Food banks can be a great resource for picking up staples and non-perishable items – especially if you don’t qualify for a food assistance program.
Be smart when you shop.
Even though you might have a very, very small grocery budget, you need to make some wise decisions when grocery shopping. Avoid brand name foods and pre-boxed items altogether so you can stock up on fresh, wholesome foods found in the aisles of the grocery store instead.
Take advantage of coupons and in-store promotions. Don’t be afraid to shop multiple grocery stores to take advantage of special offers and discounts. Spending your available food dollars wisely will help you free up money for staples you need week in, week out.
Avoiding spending money at fast-food restaurants.
Even though your kids may ask for food from McDonald’s, Burger King or other fast-food places, resist the temptation to use your cash there. It’s simply not an economical way to stretch your dollars when you’ve got little mouths to feed.
Apply for food assistance programs.
Your income will determine whether you are eligible for a food assistance program and requirements vary from state to state. In most states, you need to be at or below the national poverty line of $22,350 for a family of four to qualify for SNAP (food stamps) or any type of food assistance programs.
Take advantage of school meal benefits.
Make sure that all children attending school are eating their school meals every day. Eating two solid meals during the day means that they can get by with a lighter meal for dinner. It’s also important that children are eating healthy, nourishing foods during the day. Junk food and overly-processed foods fail to satisfy for more than a couple of hours and may cause more hunger or even malnourishment.
Ask friend and family for help.
It might take some courage to tell close friends and family members that you simply can’t afford to feed your kids, but most people will be happy to help out. You don’t need to depend on friends and family for every meal, but explaining your situation and asking for some help could let you avoid skipping numerous meals until you improve your financial situation.
Turn to local churches, institutions or non-profit agencies.
Faith-based organizations exist in every community and they don’t just help their own members. If your kids are hungry, don’t be too proud to go and ask a local house of worship for any food aid, donations or special programs they may have available.
Do the same thing at community development groups or non-profits in your neighborhood. Even if they don’t have resources to give you, they may be able to point you in the right direction for help.
Whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence and don’t allow your kids to go hungry when there are resources out there to help you and your family – if only you’d just ask for it.