“National Hunger Hotline, how can I help you?”
“Hi, I, um, I got this sheet at my school, and I was wondering where we could maybe get food or something… I dunno,” a nervous young voice asks.
“Sure, like a summer feeding site?”
“I guess, I just, I dunno, somewhere where me and my brother can go get food. My mom’s at work and we’re hungry.”
“Alright, sure thing, can I get your zip code?”
“Umm…Tommy, what’s our zip code?” he asks with a sense of urgency. Some shuffling takes place before another boy’s voice returns to the phone.
“Um, we don’t know our zip code.”
I look at the caller ID. “Do you guys live in Las Vegas?”
“Yeah, we live on Tropicana Avenue,” he says. In the background, the first boy warns about giving addresses out to strangers. “Shut up!” The second boy apologizes, “Sorry, my brother was being annoying. The school said there’s lunch places. They gave us these sheets with your phone number.”
“Ok, let me see if I can find your zip code on Google.” After doing a quick search I find it, and plug it into the WhyHunger database. “So, it looks like there are some places, but they might be far away, so just tell me if you hear anything you recognize.”
“It’s alright, we have bikes.”
“Great! There’s a site at Arnold Middle School on West Hot Springs, Harrison Elementary on Torrey Pines, and—”
“Oh, Harrison? Yeah, we know them; my brother goes to school there. Mikey, how come you didn’t know the program was at your school?”
Mikey mumbles something that sounds like “I dunno.”
“So we can just go there or what?”
“Oh, great! Well, yes, it’s an open site and it says they are serving lunch from eleven to twelve-thirty Monday to Friday, so if you leave now—”
“Okay great! Thanks! Bye.”
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. Click here to subscribe.