Stories from the Hotline: Helping Families in Transition

Hunger Hotline Poster

“National Hunger Hotline, how can I help you?” the Hotline advocate asks, answering an early morning call from Dorchester, MA.

“Hi, my name is Tammy Donnelly, and I’m trying to find somewhere my kids and I can go to get food. We just woke up and we’re real hungry,” she says urgently into the phone.

“Ok, what’s your zip code?”

“Hang on one second,” Tammy says, before speaking to a child in the background. “Martin, go wake up Bob and ask him what the zip code is.” She apologizes, “Sorry, we’ve been staying with a friend lately, so it’s his zip code.” There is some rustling before a man’s voice is heard in the background.

“The zip code, what’s the zip code here?” Tammy asks.

“Tammy, don’t get anything mailed here,” he tells her. “We don’t need anything else coming this way.”

“Just give me the zip code. He’s going to help me find some food for the kids.”

Bob tells Tammy the zip code and she repeats, “It’s 02121. Sorry, his lease is up the 15th and we’ve got to find somewhere to go for the holidays. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

“I’ll see what we can find,” the Hotline advocate says. After scanning the WhyHunger database, the operator gives Tammy the numbers of some local shelters and food pantries before asking if there is anything else that he can help her with.

“No, that’ll be it for now, just gotta get to calling. We really need to keep moving through Christmas. Say ‘thank you,’ kids,” she says, passing the phone to them as they thank the NHH advocate.

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 espaƱol. 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.

Christine Binder