Even though America is a wealthy nation, there are many who face struggles with hunger. According to Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), 10.5% of households experience food insecurity, and this accounts for more than 35 million Americans. So we had to ask: What are the best charities that fight hunger in America?
The best charities that fight hunger in America include Feeding America, Meals on Wheels, No Kid Hungry, and Midwest Food Bank. Together, these charities save thousands of lives from their struggles against hunger.
Whether you want to support senior citizens or end childhood hunger or provide resources for food pantries, there is a charity for you. Keep reading to learn more about what the best charities that fight hunger in America are all about, how they work, and what your best way is to make a contribution.
Here’s What All the Best Charities That Fight Hunger in America Have in Common
The charities in this list were all chosen based on their exemplary impact on the communities they serve. They all share a common goal of providing meals for individuals and families enduring financial hardships, whether temporary or ongoing.
From nationwide organizations to regional food banks, they all help to end hunger in America in their own ways. And they all have excellent charity scores too.
These Are the 9 Best Charities That Fight Hunger in America
Below are our favorite charities that fight hunger in America:
- Feeding America
- Meals on Wheels
- No Kid Hungry
- Midwest Food Bank
- City Harvest
- Second Harvest Heartland
- Houston Food Bank
- Food Bank for the Heartland
- Loaves and Fishes
(At the end of this article we’ll also share our six-step approach on how you can select the best charity to support.)
Feeding America: Breaking the Cycle of Hunger in America
In 1979, John van Hengel founded Feeding America a response to the hunger crisis in America. It all began in St. Mary’s in Arizona with the nation’s first food bank (originally called America’s Second Harvest). Today, Feeding America is a collection of more than 200 food banks that serve food insecure individuals and families across America.
Their impact and transparency ratings: Feeding America has upheld a 4-out-of-4-star rating on Charity Navigator since 2012. They have an overall score of 92% and a 97% score for accountability and transparency. On GuideStar, Feeding America has a gold rating for transparency.
“Food today. Food security tomorrow.”
What they do: Feeding America has two main goals: to provide healthy and nourishing meals to families struggling with hunger and to help secure ways for these people to get food in the future. Together, these two goals allow them to offer the food support Americans so desperately need, as well as break the cycle of hunger once and for all. In addition, they also fight to stop food waste, as all the food in America would be enough to feed every person, yet tons of food goes to waste each year.
What they’ve achieved: Feeding America feeds 40 million people at risk of hunger, including 12 million children (totaling about 1 in 7 Americans) by providing 6 billion meals annually. They currently have over 60,000 food pantries in their network, which are part of 200 food banks found across the nation.
Ways to contribute: The easiest way you can help Feeding America is by donating. They provide both one-time and monthly options, allowing flexibility to suit your needs. You can also use their online tool to find a food bank near you to volunteer at, or even start your own fundraising campaign.
Meals on Wheels America: Fighting Against Senior Hunger
Since 1954, Meals on Wheels America has fought senior hunger across the United States. It started as a small group in Philadelphia and has since gone on to serve millions each year. They deliver meals that improve the health of senior citizens who can’t provide for themselves.
Their impact and transparency ratings: Meals on Wheels America currently has an 86% rating on Charity Navigator with a 97% rating in accountability and transparency. The organization also has a silver award for accountability and transparency on GuideStar.
“Delivering so much more than just a meal.”
Meals on Wheels America
What they do: Meals on Wheels America aims to provide high-quality and nutritious meals to senior citizens, which improves their health and quality of life. Their friendly service also helps seniors battling loneliness and checks in on them periodically to ensure their safety.
What they’ve achieved: Meals on Wheels America serves nearly 2.4 million Americans each year, of which 62% are 75 or older and 58% live alone. They have millions of volunteers which collectively deliver 221 million meals annually.
Ways to contribute: You can donate to Feeding America as either an individual or a corporation. You can also sign up to be a volunteer. Or you can simply advocate for them through social media, phone, or email and encourage Congress to pass bills that support ending hunger for senior citizens across the nation.
No Kid Hungry: Leading the Fight Against Childhood Hunger
In 2010, No Kid Hungry was launched by the international charity Share Our Strength to completely eradicate childhood hunger in America. They seek to do this through their grants and advocacy programs. While Share Our Strength is an international charity, they founded No Kid Hungry to have a more local focus in the United States.
Their impact and transparency ratings: No Kid Hungry has an 84% rating on Charity Navigator, including a 97% for accountability and transparency. In addition, they received the Good Housekeeping Humanitarian Seal.
“No child should go hungry.”
No Kid Hungry
What they do: No Kid Hungry, as the name suggests, believes that every kid throughout America deserves the nutritious food they need to grow. They primarily focus on ending childhood hunger, which they do by providing grants to schools and other partner organizations. They also perform a lot of advocacy work to ensure government officials support policies that will protect their mission.
What they’ve achieved: No Kid Hungry sent $74 million to schools in March and April of 2020 alone, which is the largest private donation ever towards school meal programs. Their advocacy also increased the SNAP program by 15% to give about $25 per month to working families and waived restrictions on schools in how they can feed kids.
Ways to contribute: You can donate to No Kid Hungry through their website. They also have a wide variety of partner organizations including restaurants and more – if you shop there, part of the proceeds will go to No Kid Hungry. You can also start a fundraiser in a variety of different formats, whether it’s livestreaming games or running a bake sale.
Midwest Food Bank: Food Distribution and Disaster Relief
In 2003, the Kieser family started the Midwest Food Bank to address the food disparity between the wealthy and poor in their community. To do this, they turned their barn into a distribution site for local food pantries. They soon realized the need for growth and eventually grew to operate in multiple locations across the US, where they serve millions of dollars worth of food to impact millions of people through their partner organizations.
Their impact and transparency ratings: Midwest Food Bank is a highly rated charity on Charity Navigator, with a 96% overall score and a perfect 100% score in accountability and transparency. They’ve maintained 4 stars on the platform since 2011. On GuideStar, they received a platinum seal for accountability and transparency in 2020.
“Bridging the gap between prosperity and poverty.”
Midwest Food Bank
What they do: Midwest Food Bank provides food for their partner organizations across the US, including food pantries. They also provide disaster relief food services and are a first responder to the Salvation Army. Each disaster request they’re able to fulfill within 24 hours, providing timely relief to those in need of emergency help.
What they’ve achieved: Midwest Food Bank impacts more than 4 million hungry Americans each month. They do this by distributing $32 million worth of food to their over 2000 partner organizations.
Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Midwest Food Bank, which accepts a variety of options including monetary donations, asset donations, and even vehicle donations. You can also join their network of over 17,000 volunteers, which do everything from labeling cans to bookkeeping to fundraising. No matter your skill level, they have a volunteer position for you.
City Harvest: Ending Hunger in New York City
Founded in 1982, City Harvest began as a group of New Yorkers who were discontent with all the food going to waste rather than going to those who needed it. Partnering with retailers, restaurants, vehicle owners, and anyone else willing to help, they started a successful hotline. The food went directly to local soup kitchens and food pantries. Today, they serve over a million people and save many thousands of pounds of food from going to waste each year.
Their impact and transparency ratings: City Harvest has a 92% rating on Charity Navigator and has their highest star rating of 4 stars. They also received a platinum seal from GuideStar in 2019 for transparency.
“Rescuing food for NYC.”
What they do: City Harvest works to end hunger in New York City. They do this by distributing food to their partner organizations that would otherwise go to waste, bringing nutritious meals to thousands. They deliver food throughout New York, all for free. They also seek to educate and provide opportunities for the communities they serve to ensure long-lasting food security rather than just meeting immediate needs.
What they’ve achieved: As New York City’s largest food rescue organization, they’ve saved 950 million pounds of food from going to waste to date. For each additional year, they plan to add to that total by rescuing at least 150 million pounds of food for their partner organizations, which will feed around 1.5 million New Yorkers.
Ways to contribute: City Harvest provides a variety of opportunities for you to get involved with their mission. You can donate directly to the organization, which includes a variety of options such as one-time giving, monthly giving, business giving, and more. You can also join their advocacy efforts to encourage government leaders to support policies that protect City Harvest’s mission. They also have multiple shopping partners, so if you make a purchase with them, part of the proceeds will go directly to City Harvest.
Second Harvest Heartland: The Safety Net of Food Stability
Second Harvest Heartland believes wholeheartedly in being a “safety net” for their community to ensure food stability for the long term. They were formed in 2001 when two charities with more than 44 years of experience combined forces – Second Harvest Greater Minneapolis and Second Harvest St. Paul. Today they’re known as Second Harvest Heartland, and each year they provide millions of meals to those in need.
Their impact and transparency ratings: Second Harvest Heartland received a 3-star rating on Charity Navigator, including a 96% rating for accountability and transparency. They received a platinum seal for accountability and transparency on GuideStar, which is GuideStar’s highest honor.
“Help children, families, and neighbors facing hunger in the heartland.”
Second Harvest Heartland
What they do: Second Harvest Heartland has two main goals- to stabilize hungry families and strengthen the hunger relief system. They believe that no one should have to worry where their next meal is coming from – they should be able to focus on their parenting, their studies, or wherever else life is taking them. They also partner with many organizations to rescue food from going to waste and deliver it to schools, clinics, food pantries, and others in need.
What they’ve achieved: Each year, Second Harvest Heartland serve meals to more than half a million people. They achieve this by rescuing 113 million pounds of food annually, which translates to 97 million meals, 65% of which include fresh items.
Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Second Harvest Heartland or participate in a variety of other contribution opportunities. One of these is advocacy, where you can champion the policies that help fight hunger the most. You can also join their volunteer network, which has logged over 72,000 hours. They also have a variety of events to participate in, or you can start your own.
Houston Food Bank: America’s Largest Food Bank
Houston Food Bank was founded in 1982 to serve the over one million people who were food insecure. Today, they’re America’s largest food bank and deliver fresh meals to solve the growing food crisis.
Their impact and transparency ratings: Houston Food Bank has a 95% rating on Charity Navigator, including a 100% rating for accountability and transparency. They also have a platinum seal of transparency from GuideStar.
“Filling pantries. Filling lives.”
Houston Food Bank
What they do: Houston Food Bank has two main goals in their service – they seek to tackle short-term food insecurity, as well as bring programs to help with long-term food stability. These programs include “nutrition education, job training, health management, and help in securing state-funded assistance.”
What they’ve achieved: Each year, Houston Food Bank delivers 159 million fresh meals to tackle food insecurity, 8 million of which go to kids. They distribute food to their 1500 community partners to ensure food security is widespread.
Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Houston Food Bank on their website. They also have a shop where you can buy high-quality shirts, water bottles, and more, the proceeds of which go to Houston Food Bank. You can also sign up for a volunteer shift to give your time instead of money, if you prefer.
Food Bank for the Heartland: Collaboration to End Hunger
Food Bank for the Heartland was founded in 1981 for the purpose of distributing food to schools, food pantries, and other organizations. In 2011, their volume increased so much they moved to their current 76,000 square foot facility to distribute millions of meals each year to those in need. They believe fighting hunger is an “ongoing collaborative effort,” so they also pool their resources with food manufacturers, the USDA, and more.
Their impact and transparency ratings: Food Bank for the Heartland has a 93% rating on Charity Navigator, and have maintained or went above this rating each year since 2010. They also received a gold award for transparency from GuideStar.
“To eliminate hunger in our community.”
Food Bank for the Heartland
What they do: Food Bank for the Heartland seeks to end hunger, which they do through providing food supplies to those who need it most, whether on an emergency or supplementary basis. They also firmly believe in education and have nutrition resources and recipes freely available to ensure their food nourishes the people they serve.
What they’ve achieved: In 2020 alone, they provided 281 million meals, which was over 5 million up from the previous year. This included 6.8 million pounds of fresh produce, which went to their 610 network partners.
Ways to contribute: You can donate to Food Bank for the Heartland directly through their website. They also encourage hosting a virtual food drive, the proceeds of which go to purchasing the food items they need most. They also have volunteer opportunities Tuesday through Saturday if you’d like to get involved in their efforts directly.
Loaves and Fishes: Providing Nutritious Groceries
In 1975, a small group of church members in North Carolina knew they needed to face a growing issue – food insecurity. Together they started Loaves and Fishes, which already served 1000 people in its first year alone. Today they’re a network of food pantries serving thousands.
Their impact and transparency ratings: Loaves and Fishes has a 4-star rating on Charity Navigator. This includes a 95% financial score and a perfect score of 100% for accountability and transparency.
“Groceries for neighbors in need.”
Loaves and Fishes
What they do: Loaves and Fishes provides groceries on a per-week basis to individuals and families suffering from food shortages. Rather than just providing them with random food items, they put the needs of those they serve first. They make their choices a priority and provide them with the foods they’re likely to eat. They also work with a registered dietician to make sure the groceries serve all their health needs.
What they’ve achieved: Each year, Loaves and Fishes serves 119,750 people in need of groceries. For example, in 2020 alone, Loaves and Fishes raised $3.4 million in food donations.
Ways to contribute: You can make a direct donation to the organization, which gives you an option to appear on their Donor Honor Roll. They also have plenty of ways to get involved, including volunteering and starting a food drive.
How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?
The charities on the list are, we deem, the best charities that fight hunger in America. However, you may have a particular charity you want to support. Let’s look at what you can do to ensure your contribution has the most significant impact.
- Check out the charity website. Charities that are worthy of your donations are transparent in their mission and their figures. Familiarise yourself with their history, mission, and values. Their website usually is the best place to start.
- Identify the charity’s mission. Without a goal, the charity is likely to fail. If the charity’s mission isn’t clear, it’s probably worth looking for a charity that does have a clear mission.
- Check if the charity has measurable goals. An effective charity has clear goals. You want to know your donation will help the charity reach its goals. But if it doesn’t have targets, it’s likely to fail or squander your gift. The charity should be able to account for its spending and supply evidence of the work they do.
- Assess the successes or goals the charity has achieved. You wouldn’t invest in a business if it kept missing its targets. In the same way, charities are like this too. If no one is assessing the progress a charity makes in reaching its targets, the chances are not making positive change.
- Check the charity’s financials and stats. Trustworthy organizations will publish financial statements and reports each year. Some might be exempt from having to do so, but they should be able to provide them to public members who are interested in donating.
- Locate sources who work with or benefit from the charity. Word of mouth and first-hand experience of a charity’s work lets you know the charity’s quality. If you’re able to do so, check out the charity for yourself or speak to someone familiar with it. This way, your donation will go to the right place.
How Can You Best Support These Charities?
After you’ve made your decision, it’s time for you to decide on how you’d like to help the charities you’ve chosen. Check how you can help – each charity runs specific programs that have unique aims. Find out what the aim of such programs is and whether they are right for you.
Here are a few ways you can help your chosen charity:
- Donate money. You can find donation pages on the website of most charities. Your donation can be a one-time payment, or you can set it to be deducted regularly at different intervals. You can mostly pay via credit card, but some charities also take PayPal or Bitcoin payments.
- Buy their official merchandise. The charities can also raise money by selling merchandise. So, you can support them by buying the mugs, shirts, caps, pens, pencils, and any other such items they may be selling. Ideally, you should buy as much as you can to share and spread the word about the charity’s activities.
- Donate a percentage of your online purchases. If you bought anything on sites like Amazon lately, you’d find a prompt asking you to donate to your favorite charities through their Amazon Smile program. You can set this up so that your chosen charities will get a fraction of your online purchases.
- Engage in volunteer work. As you’ve seen from our descriptions above, some charities engage in a lot of local and grassroots programs. You can help by taking on and organizing the program in your local area.
- Help their fundraising efforts. You can spread the word about the charity in your workplace, school, church, etc., and hold creative fundraising drives on social media or offline within your small circles.
- Share their stories. Most charities have compelling stories that you can share with your audience to attract more people to the cause.
Now it is just up to you to select the charity that resonates most with you. And whichever charity you end up choosing and contributing to, we are sure that they will immensely appreciate your support. Hopefully, the information within this article has made this selection process a bit easier for you to support charities dedicated to fighting hunger in America – based on the causes that matter most to you.
PS: Finally, I want to leave you with a thought-provoking TED talk from Dan Pallotta, a leading philanthropic activist and fundraiser, about what is wrong with the way we think about charities – and what we can do about it:
- Food and Resource Action Center: Hunger in America Statistics
- Feeding America: Homepage
- Charity Navigator: Feeding America
- GuideStar: Feeding America
- Feeding America: Our Work
- Feeding America: Donate
- Feeding America: Find Your Local Food Bank
- Feeding America: Fundraising
- Meals on Wheels America: Home Page
- Charity Navigator: Meals on Wheels America
- GuideStar: Meals on Wheels America
- Meals on Wheels America: What We Deliver
- Meals on Wheels America: Donate
- Meals on Wheels America: Volunteer
- Meals on Wheels America: Advocate
- No Kid Hungry: Home Page
- Charity Navigator: No Kid Hungry
- Good Housekeeping: No Kid Hungry
- No Kid Hungry: Who We Are
- No Kid Hungry: 2020 Financial Report
- No Kid Hungry: Donate
- No Kid Hungry: Online Promotions
- No Kid Hungry: Fundraising
- Midwest Food Bank: Home Page
- Charity Navigator: Midwest Food Bank
- GuideStar: Midwest Food Bank
- Midwest Food Bank: Missions and Methods
- Midwest Food Bank: Donations
- Midwest Food Bank: Volunteering
- City Harvest: Home Page
- Charity Navigator: City Harvest
- GuideStar: City Harvest
- City Harvest: Our Story
- City Harvest: Food Rescue
- City Harvest: Give Now
- City Harvest: Advocacy
- City Harvest: Shop
- Second Harvest Heartland: Home Page
- Charity Navigator: Second Harvest Heartland
- GuideStar: Second Harvest Heartland
- Second Harvest Heartland: Our Impact
- Second Harvest Heartland: Services and Programs
- Second Harvest Heartland: Make a Financial Donation
- Second Harvest Heartland: Advocacy
- Second Harvest Heartland: Volunteer
- Houston Food Bank: Home Page
- Charity Navigator: Houston Food Bank
- GuideStar: Houston Food Bank
- Houston Food Bank: About Us
- Houston Food Bank: By The Numbers
- Houston Food Bank: Donate
- Houston Food Bank: Store
- Houston Food Bank: Volunteer
- Food for the Heartland: Home
- Charity Navigator: Food for the Heartland
- GuideStar: Food for the Heartland
- Food for the Heartland: About Us
- Food for the Heartland: 2020 Report
- Food for the Heartland: Donate
- Food for the Heartland: Host a Fundraiser
- Food for the Heartland: Volunteer
- Loaves and Fishes: Home Page
- Charity Navigator: Loaves and Fishes
- Loaves and Fishes: About Us
- Loaves and Fishes: Financial Statement 2020
- Loaves and Fishes: Donate
- Loaves and Fishes: Volunteer
- Loaves and Fishes: Food Drive