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OP-ED: Help feed hungry families this winter

News Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

Tom Woodward is the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia market president for Bank of America.

Mark Bender is the interim executive director of Philabundance.

For hungry families and individuals, winter can be one of the toughest times of the year. In 2014 alone, the cost to heat a home with oil is predicted to be twice as much as it was just four years ago, with thousands having to choose between paying their utility bills and putting food on the table. It’s a choice too many of our neighbors have to make: heat or eat.

Nationally, a shocking one in seven Americans – or 46.5 million people – rely on food banks to get the nutrition they need to stay well-fed and healthy. More than 7,000 people a year call Philabundance’s Food Helpline seeking assistance, with those calls skyrocketing between the months of November and December.

There is no better time than the present to recognize the impact of hunger in our area – and the ways each of us can be part of the solution. We all know that tackling hunger is a critical first step to creating long-term success and a stronger community. But where do we start?

There are many ways Philadelphians can help families in need during the coming winter. One is by volunteering at a local food bank, such as Philabundance, which distributes enough food to feed nearly 75,000 people each week through a network of more than 400 member agencies, including food cupboards, shelters, emergency kitchens, and more.

One Philabundance client in South Jersey was once a married mother of six with a thriving real estate career. But when the housing-market bubble burst, she not only lost her real estate license and her home, but also got divorced. Almost overnight, she went from having plenty of money to buy groceries to worrying about what to feed her family every day.

With Philabundance’s help, her family has access to fresh meals and is working toward economic self-sufficiency. As she says, “You should never have to choose between food and your electric bill.” Thanks to food banks in the region, fewer and fewer families will have to make this heart-wrenching choice this winter.

How can you help? If you can’t volunteer, donations can make a real difference. One option is participating in the annual Give a Meal campaign, which extends the impact of individual food bank donations. For every $1 donated to your local food bank during the campaign, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation will give $2. For more information, visit www.bankofamerica.com/give.

For every dollar donated through Give a Meal, Philabundance can provide two meals for a family in need. Even if you can’t donate, sharing this link via Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail helps to raise awareness of the very serious issue of hunger.

Using all of our connections, we can support efforts to help Philadelphia grow and thrive by fighting hunger and putting our friends and neighbors on the path to long-term financial stability.

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