National Geographic YourShot: 'Thank you USDA WIC program!!!!!'

Photo and caption: J. Grinyar/National Geographic Your Shot

Not everyone can count on a massive feast or the comfort of extended family this holiday season. For many poor people, the task of keeping a family fed with wholesome, nourishing food is a daily battle. There are governmental entities and volunteer-led efforts that help people, but the nitty-gritty details of these economic struggles often remains invisible to the majority of Americans.

That's why Feeding America, a nonprofit network of food banks across the nation, is teaming up with National Geographic's YourShot community for a photo assignment that shines a light on one of society's greatest problems: hunger.

The assignment, titled "The Story of Hunger and Hope," is curated by National Geographic photographer Annie Griffiths, who is currently on assignment for Feeding America.

While hunger is inherently a somber topic, this particular assignment is meant to inspire, not depress. To accomplish this, amateur and professional photographers alike are encouraged to [ethically] focus their lenses not only on the people who suffer from hunger, but also the people and organizations who are helping solve the problem.

The assignment description explains: "It’s about realizing that hunger affects people from all races and all ages — and from every corner of the globe. It’s about understanding that a person’s situation can change at any time, and that often they have no control over it. It’s about realizing that together, we can overcome almost anything."

In the image above, we're presented with just one of these hopeful images and stories, captured by a photographer who once experienced hunger and economic uncertainty too:

"I was a single parent with two children having left a violently abusive ex-husband after 12 years of marriage; the USDA Women, Infant and Children food program gave us our ability to live on our own — we would not be where we are today. This program gave us what you see on this plate and more — it gave us HOPE. Today, not only am I an employed college graduate, but both my adult married daughters also — not an impoverished statistic — we are prosperously strong to be able to give back to others :)"

Acclaimed chef and New York-area food bank volunteer Mario Batali will be guest judging the images submitted to the assignment, and a selection of the images will be published in a special National Geographic book about hunger. The call for entries ends on Nov. 30, so there's still time to share your own photos of this difficult topic!

Continue below for some of the images that have already caught the eye of National Geographic editors along with captions provided by the photographers:

National Geographic YourShot: 'Food Pantry, Bronx NY'

Photo and caption: qphotonyc m./National Geographic Your Shot

Food Pantry, Bronx, New York

"Photos of the longest continuously operating food pantry in the Bronx NY and a quote appearing on their business card: 'When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.' ~ Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara"

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National Geographic YourShot: Tasaungmong festival

Photo and caption: big kom/National Geographic Your Shot

Share Food

"Myanmar People are donated and share food for every this month of the year. Also call Tasaungmong festival. They can share food, cloth and etc... The poor young girl have received a cup of ice cream."

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National Geographic YourShot: 'Superman on Earth'

Photo and caption: Andrea Jako Giacomini/National Geographic Your Shot

Superman on Earth

"Father and Son in Central Park."

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National Geographic YourShot: Food bank helpers

Photo and caption: Mike Melnotte/National Geographic Your Shot

Helping Hands

"One of the ways you can help make a difference in the lives of others is by volunteering at your local food bank. Volunteer Coordinator Donna Bey of the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina-Wilmington is seen here working with Family Day volunteers. In addition to donated items, the food bank will purchase bulk pasta, lentils, beans or in this case potatoes for distribution to many other groups working with the hungry. A few hours a month to bag food goes a long way for the community."

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National Geographic YourShot: Sustenance

Photo and caption: Richard Snyder/National Geographic Your Shot


"A child displaying a handful of soy beans that will be part of their daily food."

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National Geographic YourShot: 'Tribal school in Kavita India'

Photo and caption: Angela Smirkman/National Geographic Your Shot

Tribal school in Kavita, India

"I recently returned from a two-year journey around the world with my husband and our three children during which we spent 3 months teaching at a tribal school in Kavita, India, where this shot was taken. The most difficult part of our experience was knowing that our students often went hungry and that there was so little we could do. Though we brought baskets of fruit each morning to distribute among the students, each afternoon we left knowing that they might not eat again until tomorrow."

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National Geographic YourShot: 'A Helping Hand'

Photo and caption: Michelle Walker/National Geographic Your Shot

A Helping Hand

"A volunteer outside a local food bank helping a man in need with his groceries. Giving selflessly to others is the ultimate loving gesture."

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National Geographic YourShot: 'Schools Feeding the Hungry'

Photo and caption: Tim Johnson/National Geographic Your Shot

Schools Feeding the Hungry

"The Thomas J Pappas School for the Homeless in Tempe, Arizona would regularly provide food for students and their families. The county school was closed due to political fighting within the county. Photo taken in 2007."

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National Geographic YourShot: 'Saved from the Trash'

Photo and caption: Jason Weigner/National Geographic Your Shot

Saved from the Trash

"Skagit Gleaners in Mount Vernon, WA is a model of solving hunger issues in a community while also reducing waste. Gleaners has agreements with local grocery stores to collect their food that can no longer be sold. The food is collected by Gleaners and redistributed to its members. Members have to agree to volunteer a number of hours a month gathering and sorting the food to gain the right to shop 3 times a week and gather 20-50 lbs of food per trip. Here Noah happily helps unload salvaged food."

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National Geographic YourShot: 'Carrot prize at Oregon Food Bank'

Photo and caption: Lindsay Trapnell/National Geographic Your Shot

Carrot prize at Oregon Food Bank

"A class came in to volunteer at the Oregon Food Bank. This was one group of many who were repacking fresh carrots to be redistributed to Oregonians in need. I love the sense of joy and wonder in the boy's face at finding this huge carrot. It is so heartening to see these kids giving back - and having a good time doing it."

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National Geographic YourShot: 'Science bringing hope'

Photo and caption: Cindy Chin/National Geographic Your Shot

Science bringing hope

"Science bringing hope. How do you address future food shortages for the masses when the problem exists today? Through education by teaching kids when they are young the science of growing food allows young minds to think of possible solutions. Unfortunately the startup costs are so high and America is hungry now."

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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.

Photographers cast a light on hunger as the holidays begin
Hunger is inherently a somber topic, but National Geographic assures that this photo collection will inspire, not depress.