Stories from the National Hunger Hotline: Seasonal Work, Seasonal Hunger

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

Hunger Hotline Poster

Joe’s SNAP caseworker gave him the number for the National Hunger Hotline because his food stamps had just been cancelled. Joe lives in the “thumb” region of eastern Michigan and is seasonally employed at the local sugar beet mill. The sugar company hires over 1,700 workers for several weeks every winter to help harvest and process beets, but unfortunately, Joe’s paycheck from this brief period of employment causes him to lose his SNAP benefits. This happens like clockwork every year. Often, he winds up with less money when he’s working than than when he’s unemployed.

Joe is responsible for providing for his family of five: himself, his wife, two children, and his middle-aged brother, who is disabled. Currently, he has no money to pay for utilities and barely enough to fill his tank to drive to his local SNAP office. The Hotline advocate provided Joe with contact information for the food bank and several food pantries. Earning too much to receive government benefits, but not enough to provide for his family, turning to local emergency food providers is often the only option for Joe and many others stuck in the same catch-22.

The National Hunger Hotline is at 1-866-3 HUNGRY and 1-877-8 HAMBRE (1-866-348-6479 and 1-877-842-6273). 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