Monday, March 17, 2014

How you can get involved in your community.

In our previous post we spoke of the many organizations around Passaic county that help to promote and alleviate hunger awareness. Now that you are all fully trained in what organizations are within your reach now you’re ready to know how you too can help.
  1. Donate, donate, donate. There are several pantries in Passaic county and while they are many they are not always full. Most pantries like CUMAC have a list of items they need. This makes it easier for you to know what to bring. However before you come in with an armful of goods check in with the pantry to see if they have specific drop off times.This will ensure that your goods get to their destination at the right time.  
  2. Plan a food drive. Yes it is great for you to gather up your goods to donate to a pantry, but wouldn’t it be better if you got a group to help you? If you work in an office, a frequent at a library, involved in your children’s school then you’re in a prime location for a food drive. Post a list and acquire a box  to collect your goods. Make sure you contact the pantry you plan to donate to so that they are aware of the gifts they are about to receive. If possible make it a competition! Everyone loves to be a winner at something, and better yet if they are winning by helping others.  
  3. Donate your clothes too. The issues of nutrition inequality is not solely related to food. inequality with food and nutrition is also a socioeconomic problem.1 in 4 people in New Jersey struggle to meet their basic needs, which often forces individuals to choose between food and other essentials. If you’re fortunate enough to have an abundance of clothing donating them is a good way to make way with them and get a head start on your spring cleaning. There are many organizations, like Habitat for Humanity Restore, that accept clothing and sell them at an affordable price, or give them away for free. These organizations strive to help people struggling in these times. If you can’t get to a donation center there are many organizations like Big Brother Big Sister that will pick up your donation from your house! Some of them also take furniture, this is a great way to give back to organizations that do so much for the community.
  4. Contact your government officials. The most pressing issue in the topic of nutrition equality is SNAP. Currently debates are being held to discuss the SNAP budget cuts. People are not happy about the decision they made to cut SNAP funds and these same people need to make sure their voices are heard. Ways to ensure your voice is heard is by contacting your local government representative, through phone call, email, or a snail mail letter. There are templates all over the internet that help you get started if you don’t know what to say or how. There’s also several petitions online that you are encouraged to sign. To find out who your representative it follow this link.   When you go to contact your representatives, try and motivate everyone you know to follow suit. The more attention is brought to the issue the more likely your voice will be heard.
  5. Volunteer. If you have some time spare, spend it with all the wonderful organizations that are close to you and trying to make an impact.There’s a lot of them, each catered to your preference. CUMAC has many opportunities, from helping in the pantry to preparing meals and baskets for participants of the organization. Soup Kitchens are plentiful and are always looking for volunteer to help prepare and serve food to their patrons. Schools as well are seeing the importance of nutrition and most are implementing a garden into their programs, organizations like City Green are working hard to ensure that there is early presentation of food and how it is important for our bodies.
  6. Contact your local grocers. Most of us get all of our food from a grocery store and if we’re lucky a supermarket. However, if that supermarket isn’t supplying you with the items you want or you don’t know what healthy choices you could make there, speak up. Talk to the manager, ask questions, and if there is a nutritionist or a registered dietician on board (The Shoprite in  Passaic and Little Falls do) ask them if they can give you a supermarket tour.  All these tools will help you become an informed consumer and allow you to spread your newly gained knowledge to others. Most grocers also have abundance of produce and food items that usually end up in the garbage. Instead of taking it upon yourself to go dumpster diving ask them if they would like to donate those items to the local pantry.
  7. Be Informed. There is a lot going on in the news of nutrition and food security. What is most important about these issues is that they are tied to many other issues, specifically socioeconomics. Gaining knowledge of these issues helps you become aware of trends, allows you to become and active citizen, and prepares you to help in all of the previous steps mentioned. Ways to be informed include watching and reading the news, attending press events, arranging meetings with representatives, and signing up to email lists like NJAHCs which provides you with advocacy updates and action alerts. Find a source that works for you and stick with it.  
Now you’re officially ready to go out and serve your community. There’s many ways to help and most take less than a day’s effort. If you have the time to dedicate to the community you live in or neighbor then you need to make the leap and become a volunteer, an advocate, or anything you want to be, so long as you’re helping others! As you begin your journey as a helper, remember the goal of your journey #nutritionforall. 

-ZG

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