Anti-hunger efforts under way in area

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If you see people wearing orange today it’s not because they want to celebrate Halloween early. Most likely they are representing people in America who don’t have enough food.

Hunger Action Month was started by the national Feeding America organization, which helps feed 37 million people every year. Throughout the month of September local food banks will be hosting a number of different activities to help combat the hunger that affects less fortunate Americas every day.

Locally, more than 22,700 people seek food from the Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin every week. The foodbank now serves more than 140,000 unique individuals every year and over 43 percent of the beneficiaries are children.

The goal is to raise awareness that hunger exists in America and not just in developing countries, said Kris Tazelaar, communications manager for Second Harvest of Southern Wisconsin.

“There are people out there who just don’t know the level of hunger that exists,” he said. “They think when they see a picture of a starving child in another country they think ‘it doesn’t happen here,’ but that’s just not the case.”

Residents can do a variety of things during the month to help Second Harvest, Tazelaar said.

Every dollar the food bank receives creates three meals. Due to the volunteer work, 95 cents of every dollar goes into one of the food bank’s programs, Tazelaar said.

Volunteers, who put in around 1,500 hours of work per week, are a huge part of how the food bank is so efficient with monetary donations, Tazelaar said.

“Totaled together in a year that is about 64,000 hours,” he said, “which amounts to about 30 full-time employees.”

Other events include a volunteer sort-a-thon on Sept. 21 and 22 at Second Harvest in Madison to help organize donations and to make sure the food can safely be given out.

Those interested may sign up on Second Harvest’s website at www.secondharvestmadison.org. Shifts range from three to six hours.

The food bank also has a calendar on its website that lists ways residents can help spread the word every day during the month of September.

Tasks range from posting information on Facebook pages to organizing garage sales and donating proceeds to food banks.

Tazelaar said Second Harvest and the Food Bank of Lincoln, Neb. are also participating in a Food Bowl as part of the University of Wisconsin and University of Nebraska football game on Sept. 29 in Lincoln.

“It’s a friendly competition to see which food bank can raise the most money and meals,” he said.

The competition is not winner take all, he said, and every donation made will stay with their respective food banks.

To donate, go to lincolnfoodbank.org/foodbowl. For more information call 608-216-7214.

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