Stories from the National Hunger Hotline: Helping Families in Crisis

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.

Sara called after finding the number for the National Hunger Hotline in the phonebook. She had just filed charges against her abusive husband, who broke four of her ribs in a recent assault. Before he left, he had drained their bank account, leaving Sara with twenty dollars in cash and no source of income to support herself and her teenage daughter.

Sara had already applied for SNAP and TANF and had found a new job that started in two weeks, but was looking for help with food and other expenses until she started receiving a paycheck and benefits. The Hotline advocate directed Sara to several of the food pantries located in her northwest Texas town, and also provided her with phone numbers for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps people pay their utility bills.

The Hotline advocate also told Sara that her 16-year-old daughter would be eligible to receive free meals through the Summer Food Service Program, and that the elementary school in Sara’s neighborhood was listed as a feeding site, providing both breakfast and lunch. Sara was particularly grateful to hear this, telling the hotline advocate that “this will be really good, because my daughter’s already lost a lot of weight.”

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