June Is National Hunger Awareness Month

This June, our League hopes you will join us in recognizing National Hunger Awareness Month. Hunger is an issue that many within our industry strive to work against regularly through Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger. Now is a perfect opportunity to spread awareness about food insecurity within our state. We encourage your credit union to share the realities many hungry Mainers face daily with those in your communities.  

Unfortunately, hunger is a growing concern across the state of Maine—and across the country as a whole. During the COVID-19 pandemic, grocery store shortages, layoffs and the overall lack of employment, self-isolation, and many other challenges caused many people to face food insecurity—but ample food assistance programs stepped in to provide support, helping bridge the gap to provide for those needing nutrition the most. However, more and more Mainers are struggling to meet basic nutritional needs with government assistance programs adjusting qualification requirements and the economy leading to tighter budgets. 

Hunger in Maine 

The statistics on the state’s food insecure population paint a rather vivid picture of what these Mainers face: 

  • 13% of Maine’s population is food insecure. This means 1 in 8 Mainers struggle to find room in their household budgets for food. 
  • 1 in 5 children are facing hunger. 
  • In 2022, Maine was ranked 21st in the nation (tied with two other states) and 1st in New England for household food insecurity. 
  • Maine was also ranked 18th in the nation (tied with three other states) and 1st in New England for very low household food security at this time. 

In 2021, pandemic food support from both the government and individuals dropped Maine’s hunger rates to the lowest they’d been in more than two decades. Yet, with government assistance being rolled back, more Mainers are currently visiting food pantries, and they are visiting more often. To make things more difficult for those struggling to get enough food, more than half of the food insecure population also don’t qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), meaning they rely more on food banks for support—food banks that are also struggling to keep up with demand. 

How Can You Help? 

Making a difference for our hungry neighbors does not take much. In fact, there are many ways—both big and small—that you and/or your credit union can join the fight against hunger: 

  • Collect nonperishable food and/or cash donations in your lobbies for a local hunger relief organization. 
  • Volunteer time with a food pantry. Help pack boxes of groceries, sort through food donations, and even offer a hand cooking or distributing a warm meal to food bank visitors. 
  • Coordinate fundraisers in support of efforts to end hunger—any amount raised makes a difference! Even a donation of $1 can help provide two healthy meals for those in need. 
  • If you have a few extra nonperishables sitting in your pantry, consider donating them to a food pantry near you. 
  • Do you have a green thumb? Consider donating your garden produce to help alleviate hunger. Similarly, start a community garden! 
  • Fund school meal programs so students who rely on their school meals for nutrition have plenty of food. Our friends at Full Plates Full Potential have identified districts in need of funding. Your credit union can fund or partially fund a summer meal program grant.
  • Use your credit union’s Ending Hunger funds to make donations to hunger relief organizations in your community. 
  • Provide resources in your credit union for members of the community to find local hunger-related assistance programs. 
  • Educate and advocate! Share on social media and in your newsletters, spread the word within your community and friend groups, and help educate others on the severity of hunger in our home state. 

While June is National Hunger Awareness Month, we know Maine’s credit union movement works all year long to fight food insecurity. Should your credit union need any supporting data for your Ending Hunger efforts, please reference our new state-specific statistics page on the Campaign for Ending Hunger’s website for more detailed information. Statistics are provided by Feeding America and Good Shepherd Food Bank—two excellent resources on hunger. 

Annual $100,000 Ending Hunger Challenge 

Save the date! The annual $100,000 Ending Hunger Challenge will be taking place this October. We hope your credit union will partake in this 31-day fundraising challenge geared towards raising at least $100,000 within one month, with all funds directly benefiting hunger relief organizations in our local Maine communities. As usual, 25% of the Challenge’s proceeds will be directed to our friends at Good Shepherd Food Bank to support the ongoing work they do to feed hungry Mainers in all corners of the state. 

With any Ending Hunger questions, please feel free to reach out to Jen Burke (jburke@mainecul.org) or Lauren McCallum (lmccallum@mainecul.org).