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Wal-Mart, hunger, and you

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Extra chunky brownie points go to Wal-Mart, which this week announced a $2 billion effort to help alleviate hunger in America. Joblessness has pushed the hunger rate to its highest level since 1995, and donations to food banks are not keeping up with demand.

The last time I gave to a food bank was two or three years ago, at Thanksgiving, when I saw a sign up on our office door announcing a canned food drive. All you had to do was leave a bag of food in the lobby. Easy-peasy.

Then, last year, I visited my sister's church in rural Kansas and heard an appeal for the local food bank. "I'm going to make a donation," I told my sister. But then the time filled up and before I knew it, I was on a plane back to Washington, D.C. I never did write that check.

I can do better than this, and so can other individuals. Nearly 15 percent of US households lack access to an adequate supply of nutritious food, according to the US Department of Agriculture. In raw numbers, 49 million Americans struggle with hunger, and that number is expected to grow.

Feeding the hungry is a joint effort involving many actors: individuals, charities, corporations, and the government, which is the linchpin in the hunger fight (1 in 8 Americans is currently receiving food stamps).

This week, Wal-Mart did its part. Its cash and in-kind donations of fresh produce, meat, dairy and other foods will provide more than 1 billion meals over five years. But there's more to do, and one way you can help is to donate to your local food bank (cash donations are better than food, because of various nutrition requirements).

You can find a local food bank at Feeding America, which is an umbrella organization that supports more than 200 food banks across the nation. It also works with private donors as well as the US government. I found my local bank. Find yours.

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