Low-income families are faced with a host of different challenges. Feeding, clothing, sheltering and entertaining children can be very difficult on a small or non-existent budget. However, there are numerous government and community resources that have been established to benefit low income families and provide for their basic needs.
Formerly known as Second Harvest, Feeding America is the largest domestic hunger relief charity in the United States. Every year, Feeding America provides free food assistance to more than 25 million low income people in the United States.
To receive food from Feeding America, visit one of their 63,000 networked food banks, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, or after school programs. To find a local Feeding America networked establishment, call 1-800-771-2303 or search by zip code or state on their website, http://feedingamerica.org/foodbank-results.aspx/.
Individuals who want to make a difference in the lives of low income families can make monthly or one-time financial donations to Feeding America online, over the phone, by mail or by wire transfer. For donating instructions, visit their website at http://feedingamerica.org/take-action/donate/other-ways-donate.aspx. Every dollar donated provides nine pounds of food to hungry families in America. Food donations are also accepted at local Feeding America food banks.
The Salvation Army is an international movement of the universal Christian Church. However, every needy American can receive assistance from the Salvation Army, regardless of religious affiliation.
Services offered by the Salvation Army include disaster recovery services, emergency financial assistance, food and nutrition programs, family counselling, transitional housing, emergency shelters, music and arts programs, Church services, and youth camps.
During Christmastime, the Salvation Army stations bell ringers outside popular establishments. These individuals collect donations in bright red containers. The money is then used to provide Christmas dinners, clothing, toys, seasonal aid and basic necessities to needy individuals and families.
Families in need can search for their local Salvation Army location at http://www.salvationarmyusa.org. A search by zip code will reveal all nearby Salvation Army locations and the services they offer. Services may vary depending on location.
Catholic Community Services
Various regions of the United States possess local charities known as Catholic Community Services. These entities are sponsored by local Catholic Diocese but provide for the basic needs of people from every religious background.
Catholic Community Services offers many different types of assistance, including emergency financial assistance for rent and utilities, hot prepared meals, and various homeless resources including access to showers, laundry facilities, and haircuts. In some areas, Catholic Community Services may operate a food bank, provide pregnancy or newborn needs, and addiction recovery programs.
The best way for families in need to discover if there is a Catholic Community Services in their area is to conduct a Google search with the word "Catholic Community Services" followed by their location, such as Seattle, Salt Lake City, or New York.
Families who are struggling to clothe their kids or purchase toys on the holidays can benefit from watching the local classifieds. Websites such as Craigslist (http://www.craigslist.org) have sections dedicated to items that other people are giving away for free. Used clothes, toys, and even household appliances can be found at no cost.
To find free stuff in your area, shop online classifieds for free sections. Some newsletters, such as The Freecyle Network, allow local groups to share information on local freebies. Find a local group and sign up at http://www.freecycle.org/.
Although not charities, federal and state government agencies provide assistance to low-income families. Food assistance, medical insurance, and emergency financial support may be available to eligible low income individuals and families.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) offers food stamp benefits on an EBT card that can be used exactly like an ATM card at most grocery stores. Eligibility is primarily determined by the size of the family compared to the family's income. To find out if you are eligible, complete an online screening tool at http://www.snap-step1.usda.gov/fns/ or apply at a local SNAP office. Find an office near you by searching at http://www.fns.usda.gov/fsp/outreach/map.htm.
Medical and financial programs vary by state. To determine your eligibility, visit your local welfare office.