Stories from the National Hunger Hotline: Beyond Referrals

 The National Hunger Hotline (NHH), a service of WhyHunger’s National Hunger Clearinghouse, provides real-time referrals for people in need across the U.S. to emergency food and assistance programs. Receiving an average of 700 calls per month, the NHH is a portal to information, assistance, and resources, ultimately empowering families and individuals to meet their vital needs including fresh, healthy food. In Stories from the Hotline, we share some of the experiences of callers and our efforts to support them.

Suzi, a young, disabled woman from Texas called the National Hunger Hotline looking for a summer food service meal site in her area. Along with children and teens, disabled adults who participate in school programs for the mentally or physically disabled are eligible to participate in the Summer Food Service Program.

Using the “Eat Right, Find a Site!” interactive map at, the Hotline advocate found the site closest to Suzi. It turned out that Suzi already knew about the site, located in her apartment complex. She had been there, but the site manager had denied her meals because she was over 18, even though she had provided documentation of her disability. The Hotline advocate made note of the manager’s error, and provided Suzi with contact information for another nearby site.

Afterward, NHC staff spoke with a contact at the USDA to report that the site manager had wrongfully denied benefits to the disabled woman. USDA contacted the site manager and informed of proper protocol, so that other disabled people won’t be wrongly turned away from the site in the future.

The National Hunger Hotline 1-866-3 HUNGRY and 1-877-8 HAMBRE (1-866-348-6479 and 1-877-842-6273) refers people in need of emergency food assistance to food pantries, government programs, and model grassroots organizations that work to improve access to healthy, nutritious food, and build self-reliance.  Help is available on Monday through Friday from 9am-6pm EST.  Hablamos español. The Hotline is funded in part by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

This article originally appeared in our monthly e-newsletter, the Clearinghouse Connection, which facilitates the exchange of information, resources and ideas among emergency food providers. To subscribe, email [email protected].

Christine Binder