by Mia Costonis

As you may already know, Philadelphia struggles considerably with food insecurity. According to U.S. News and World Report, 21% of people and families in Philadelphia are food insecure, and this number spikes to an astonishing 30% in select areas like West Philadelphia.

Food insecurity is defined as “a lack of available financial resources for food at the level of the household” according to Hunger and Health. In simpler terms, being food insecure means that an individual or family does not know where their next meal is coming from because they either know they don’t have the money or they don’t have access to food.

Although most see food insecurity as a problem only homeless people face, this problem is much more widespread than that. Many families say that they are food insecure because they make too much money to be considered for programs that would help compensate, but not enough money to afford to feed their families. Around 20% of families that are food insecure do not qualify for the Federal Nutrition Assistance Programs.

One man, William Dillahunty, is a 65-year-old man who was injured in a construction accident. Dillahunty is destitute, for he is not only injured, but he also does not have enough food to survive. He is now receiving disability benefits from Social Security to help him continue his life.

Even with these benefits, when asked if he was ever food insecure, he stated “I am hungry, hell yes,” which goes to show that even with financial support, some people are living in a dearth of food, leaving them desperate to find it anywhere they can.

He told U.S. News that sometimes to get food he “walk[s] around supermarkets pretending to shop, opening food packages, then eating [the food] away from the cameras.” Dillahunty explained that he does not feel bad stealing this food, for he would not be able to eat if he didn’t sneakily eat it.

To help people like Dillahunty who are food insecure, there are many food banks in the local Philly area. One of the bigger ones, Philabundance, describes any food that is donated as “much-needed.” This food bank also stated that it helps feed around 90,000 people per week, which you could imagine takes a lot of food to do.

Philabundance also makes donating food very easy. It has over 350 partner community organizations where you can drop off food. There are also a lot of items that are eligible to be donated; the food just has to be good by the sell-by date. At almost all food banks, non-perishable food items are always accepted and greatly appreciated.

Donating food, however, isn’t the only way to get involved and help. Even if you don’t have extra food to donate, donating your time is just as valuable. Volunteering at a local food shelter to help cook and serve food, organize donations or even just greet the people who come in makes a huge difference. By helping, the people are not only receiving food, but also solace in knowing that there are other people in their area that care about them. After volunteering at food shelters myself, I can tell you that the smiles you will see on people’s faces after they are welcomed and served are unforgettable.

Hopefully you are now thinking about all of the extra food that you have in your pantry. This food could be the difference in a family eating today or not. Become a benefactor by taking the time to clean out the food that you are not going to eat and donating it. I urge you to go through your pantry every few months and try to donate all the food that you can.

I also request that if you have a free day in your schedule to volunteer at a local food bank to help supply food to those who would otherwise not have any. Whatever you do to help, all I am requesting of you is to try to make a difference, even if it starts with one can. By doing this, we can eventually obviate the problem of food insecurity to the point where it is not extant. After considering the statistics and hearing Dillahunty’s story, I hope that you are moved to help make the change we need to happen in Philadelphia. Every donation counts and even the little things mean a lot to someone who may have nothing.

Mia Costonis, 16, is a sophomore at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.