For the most part, the global food crisis is not a crisis of shortages; it's one of soaring prices. And the result is hundreds of millions of people who are suddenly struggling to feed themselves.
As the crisis strains the resources of humanitarian groups and entire governments, it's hard for individual Americans to know what they can possibly do to alleviate the situation. But there are a few ways that individuals can make a difference in the short term:
Donate money. Many relief agencies are seeing budget shortfalls in the millions—if not hundreds of millions—of dollars this year. Many of the largest groups, including Oxfam America, the U.N. World Food Program, and CARE, encourage online donations. Some allow you to select specific projects or efforts.
Support food banks. U.S. food banks are seeing dramatic increases in visitors and shrinking stocks because of reduced contributions. America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest food bank network, features a local food bank locator on its website to guide donors. Some local agencies, such as Detroit's Forgot-ten Harvest, rescue perishable food from supermarkets and restaurants that would otherwise go to waste. They, too, accept monetary donations.
Waste time for a cause. If you can't afford to make donations yourself, a few mouse clicks will instruct others to donate money for you. At freerice.com, visitors can play simple vocabulary games; WFP will donate 20 grains of rice for every correct answer. Another site, thehungersite.com, requires just a click of a button.
Reduce food waste. According to estimates, Americans waste about 100 billion pounds of food annually. Though cutting out waste at home won't directly help feed the hungry elsewhere, Americans can be more conscious about their eating habits. Rather than overbuying, use the money you save to make a donation.
Reward retailers. A number of companies donate money or food to antihunger programs. Chicken of the Sea and Ruby Tuesday have pledged a fraction of their sales to America's Second Harvest. You can find more contributors at secondharvest.org.