My Office Is in the Middle of a Desert

Oct 16, 2014

This post is by Tracy Hoover, Points of Light's president.

foodrecoverynetwork_padded2.jpgFood Recovery Network volunteers collect food for distribution to the hungry.

I found out today that my office is in the middle of a desert. On a U.S. map, it’s in Atlanta. But on the USDA’s Food Access Research Atlas, we’re located in the middle of a “food desert.” That means that supermarkets are more than a half mile away and getting access to fresh, healthy food is challenging.

The USDA estimates that a shocking 23.5 million Americans live in food deserts. According to No Kid Hungry, 1 in 5 children in America struggles with hunger.

Today is World Food Day, a United Nations-sponsored day of awareness and action focused on making sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. Globally, the United Nations estimates that there are 805 million hungry people in the world. The problem is huge and complex.

But in the face of these enormous challenges, volunteers are finding promising solutions.

In the U.S., Ben Simon and Mia Zavalij started the Food Recovery Network when they noticed that surplus food from their University of Maryland dining halls and sporting events was begin thrown away. Today their organization – which collects and distributes surplus food from college campuses to those who need it – is one of a growing number of civic startups inventing new solutions to long-term problems.

Making hunger a thing of the past will require all of us to take action. The good news is there are lots of ways volunteers of any age can help. Here are things you can do to end food insecurity, food waste and hunger in your community and around the world:

Use Your Time & Talent

  • Organize a healthy food drive or join a food rescue team to help fill the gap left by food deserts in your area. Download a Healthy Food Drive toolkit to get started. Or download the HandsOn Network’s Food Pick-Up Playbook for tips on starting your own food rescue project.
  • Volunteer in your community. Go to and search “Hunger” and your zip code. Encourage your friends to join you!
  • Kids and teens can apply for a $500 grant to support projects to fight hunger. Check out  “Make Your Mark on Hunger,” a youth-led campaign supported by ConAgra Foods Foundation, C&S Wholesale Grocers and the National Turkey Federation.
  • Parents and educators, download the Farm to Table curriculum to use in teaching kids about food production and supply, where it comes from, why food security is an issue and what can be done to help.

Use Your Voice & Influence

  • Visit No Kid Hungry to find out how you can advocate for policies that help address hunger in your community.

Use Your Money

Every action counts. Let’s make a difference today.