In our divided country, a reality that often goes unnoticed is that millions of Americans – of all political stripes – struggle to put food on the table. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 10% of U.S. households are food insecure.
Many families live one unexpected financial burden – a medical bill, a car repair – from having to choose between buying enough food or paying rent.
That’s where food pantries come in, providing a crucial lifeline. They’re there if a family needs them regularly, and they’re there if a family needs them just now and again to get through the month.
And these pantries need help.
That's where we, the divided masses, come in. As a newspaper columnist, I'm abundantly familiar with America's divisions. Readers regularly email to call me “a liberal lunkhead,” “an enemy of the people” or “a total loser jerk.”
I appreciate those sentiments, but what if there were a way to channel that negative energy toward something positive, like helping people facing food insecurity?
Spoiler alert: There is! And don’t worry, if you happen to like me (which I don't recommend), you’ll be able to help people as well.
I’ve teamed up with Feeding America, a national nonprofit organization that supplies about 200 food banks across the country, to launch what I and my low self-esteem call the Insult-A-Columnist Holiday Food Drive.
A simple way to help an intractable problem
The concept is simple. You donate to Feeding America under one of two team names: RexRocks or RexStinks. No matter which team you choose, your contribution will be directed to a food bank near you, based on the ZIP code you provide. The food banks in the Feeding America network provide groceries to tens of millions of people nationwide through pantries, shelters and other community outreach organizations.
Whichever team collects the most money to help people put food on the table this holiday season will determine whether I am horrible (probably) or wonderful (doubtful).
If the RexStinks team wins, I’ll write a column labeling myself a miserable fopdoodle and generally giving myself the business. In the unlikely scenario the RexRocks team wins, I’ll write a column hailing myself as the greatest journalist of this or any other century, flattering myself in a way that will make those who can’t stand me want to toss their holiday cookies.
We may disagree on a lot, but surely we can agree that I stink
It’s a way for all of us – regardless of politics or ideologies – to come together and do some good for our friends and neighbors who might be toeing that perilously thin line between making ends meet and being unable to afford enough food.
Katie Fitzgerald, president and chief operating officer of Feeding America, told me that while some of the economic pressures the pandemic put on families and the food chain have eased, inflation and the high cost of food have stepped in to drive up food insecurity.
"What’s different today is that stubbornly high food prices are creating this next perfect storm," she said. "Demand over the last 18 months is continuing to be elevated in most communities. Our most recent data from our food banks showed that about 60% say it has been increasing. In some food banks, the demand in August was as high as at any point during the pandemic."
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She said 43% of the network's food banks are operating in a deficit budget, and "a lot of the government supports that were in place during the pandemic have gone away or are going away."
"We’re dealing with continued elevated demand with less supports and fewer resources."
That's where you kind humans come in. Through the Insult-A-Columnist Holiday Food Drive, every $1 you donate to Feeding America will provide at least 10 meals. Truly any size donation can make a difference.
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Hate mail aplenty and one zany idea
This virtual food drive started back in 2018 when I was a columnist at the Chicago Tribune. I wanted to redirect the anger coming my way into something positive, so I thought: “Well, people insult me all the time anyway, so why not let the market decide whether I’m a viperous hollow-eyed dullard, and maybe help some folks in the process?”
Working with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which is part of Feeding America’s network, I asked readers who loathed or loved me to pony up some cash for a good cause. And, as Americans tend to do, they came through in a big way. It warmed this journalist’s cynical heart.
Don't tweet at me. Make a donation.
So now I’m delighted to bring the Insult-A-Columnist Holiday Food Drive to a national audience and give everyone a chance to tell me I stink. Just follow this link to donate: feedingamerica.org/USATodayRex.
Have you had it with what you call “the liberal media”? Donate $50 to Feeding America under the RexStinks team name and show me how worthless I am.
Do you consider me, as a reader recently wrote, “raw insect feces”? Chip in $10 to the RexStinks team to help get me to write terrible things about myself.
Or donate $1 billion to either team and I will personally deliver you a big hug!
It’s high time Americans came together and forced me to stand up, like the weak-kneed dreck-peddler I am, and shout before the nation, the world and the universe: “MY NAME IS REX HUPPKE, AND I AM THE ABSOLUTE WORST!”
Really let me have it, folks. Give until I hurt.
More from Rex Huppke:
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USA TODAY food drive: Insult a columnist and help people. Really.