How to help people in poverty

It’s estimated that around 800 million people live in poverty around the globe. How can we help these people and what can YOU do to make real change?

What are the 3 types of poverty?

Poverty occurs when people do not have the material possessions or income required to fulfill their basic life needs. Poverty can include social, economic, or political factors outside of a person’s control.

1. Absolute Poverty

Absolute poverty is the condition in which a person does not earn the minimum amount of income to cover their minimum requirements as a human being over an extended period. 

These basic requirements include:

  • Food
  • Safe drinking water
  • Sanitation facilities
  • Adequate health care
  • Shelter
  • Education 
  • Access to information (computer, mobile phone, television, radio, etc.)
  • Access to services (schools, hospitals, etc.)

Life in absolute poverty is dangerous for an individual as they are without the essential living conditions that contribute to that person’s health, education, and ultimately, survival.


 2. Relative Poverty

Relative poverty occurs when a person does not get the income required to maintain the average standard of living for the society they live within. For example, it’s thought that 40 million people live in relative poverty in the United States of America, one of the wealthiest countries on the planet.

Relative poverty is used to help measure the level of poverty in each country. If people within their own country are unable to keep up with the average standard of living determined by their society, they are deemed impoverished. As it is relative, it changes over time, adjusting to the country’s economy and standard of living.


The main causes of relative poverty include:

  • Unemployment
  • Poor Education
  • Poor Health

Life in relative poverty can be extremely demoralizing and destructive to an individual and their family. Without support, they could become homeless. 

3. Secondary Poverty

Secondary poverty is the result of a person who has sufficient income for the necessities of life but spends that income on other things such as gambling, tobacco, or alcohol and drug addiction. 

Secondary poverty can be helped by limiting the gambling industry’s activity, enforcing new laws that deter people from spending their money on non-necessities, and improving education surrounding these factors.

Every country in the world has people who suffer from secondary poverty.


How Can We Help End Poverty?

There are many things that we can all do to help end poverty right now. People, charities, and organizations need your support, determination, and for you to voice your concern. 

Here are various things we can do to help end poverty.

Create awareness

Poverty exists in every community, therefore it’s crucial to understand where the problems are on your own. Find out what resources are already accessible and what resources are still needed. There are local organizations performing this job that could use your assistance; you can then contribute by spreading the word and learning from these community experts regarding how you can help combat poverty in your neighborhood.

The Twin Cities Mutual Aid Map, for example, is a fantastic resource in Minneapolis. This map depicts a wide range of groups and mutual help activities in the Twin Cities region that take donations and other resources.

Make monetary and time donations

Donating contributions to groups whose aim is to eliminate these economic gaps is one of the most basic methods to help combat poverty in your town. There is no such thing as a tiny or huge sum of money. As the money accumulates, groups can use them to address housing inequities, educational gaps, food insecurity, and other issues.

Most people in the world do not have the privilege of disposable income. You can put some of yours to good use by donating to one of the many charities across the world providing solutions to causes you care about like world hunger, poverty, or schooling.

Find Volunteer Opportunities

Your money helps but your time can be just as important. Whether you serve soup to the homeless in your community or help build a school in Ethiopia, or co-ordinate relief efforts in disaster-zones, your time is valuable.

Partnering with local groups that benefit the community by contributing time is another useful option. There are ways to make an effect without spending money, whether it’s volunteering at a food pantry or assisting students after school to finish their homework.

Sign Petitions to Raise Awareness

There are thousands of people and organizations making real positive change through petitions that aim to help those in need. All they require is your signature to be heard officially by governments, world leaders, and big corporations.

Attending marches and rallies is another approach to raise awareness and aid in the battle against poverty in your neighborhood. These might be block parties, marches, or any other peaceful event that draws the attention of the community to the struggle against systemic poverty. There are groups that host activities regularly to promote awareness and stand united with those impacted by poverty, and you may learn how to be an effective supporter by joining their efforts.

Support Minimum Wage Increases

Perpetual economic growth doesn’t always result in higher wages for the working class, meaning many people fall victim to relative poverty. You can help by supporting an increase in the minimum wage in your country.

The national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour in 2015 equates to $15,080 per year for full-time employment over 52 weeks. For just a family of three, the federal poverty line is $20,090 (try living on that!). Twenty percent of America’s children would benefit if the minimum wage were raised to $10.10/hour (smaller in real currency than the 1968 minimum wage). Cities and states are leading the charge to raise the minimum wage to a living pay rate. According to various research, boosting unions and collective bargaining rights would increase wage pressure across the board.

Create Jobs

Look for places where your community-based company or group may use some assistance. Numerous people in poverty might lack access to quality education or specialty credentials, but that does not rule out the possibility that they have anything to give. One method to aid neighbors living below the poverty line in your neighborhood is to identify areas of opportunity within your company or group, extend your recruitment pool, and offer a decent wage.

There is a tremendous amount of work to be undertaken in the United States, but most of it will not be profitable. This is where the government can help. Infrastructure expenditures, such as repairing outdated bridges, developing mass transportation, and switching to renewable energy sources, as well as investments in critical services like schools, daycare, and elder care, produce both public benefits and employment.

Local employment rules for major firms in low-income neighborhoods have the same effect. Low-cost home construction creates jobs by increasing disposable income by cutting housing expenses. More individuals could be trained if community colleges were free. And, if you feel that anybody eager to work should be employed, the government can serve as the last resort employer.

Break Down Taboos

Whether you have preconceived beliefs about poverty in your neighborhood or as an idea in general, it’s critical to question them so you don’t unknowingly transmit detrimental preconceptions. One of the best ways to fight poverty is to break down the misunderstanding about it.

One prevalent misunderstanding is that people who are homeless choose not to work. This misunderstanding is extremely detrimental because it ignores the numerous uncontrolled and systemic factors that might contribute to housing insecurity or poverty. In actuality, several issues make it difficult for people to obtain work, including the loss of affordable homes, unequal access to knowledge and equipment, and mental issues.

Support Paid Sick days

If you operate a business in your town, provide paid family vacation and sick days. Although it is a commitment for you, having a day off without pay every now and again can be detrimental to some of your staff, particularly if they are poor. Your employees will become ill from time to time; give them peace of mind by providing paid sick leave. Consider providing childcare stipends or perhaps an on-site daycare alternative for employees who make less than the region’s median salary to create an atmosphere where working-class people don’t have to pick between money and childcare. As an employer, if you provide paid leave you’ll be helping those who work for you and it will also make them feel appreciated and they will work harder.

End Poverty Tax

Low-income residents in poor communities pay higher prices for almost everything, from groceries to vehicle loans, and are reliant on high-interest “pay-day loans” since many banks refuse to service them. Poor families cannot afford to buy in bulk to save money. Low-income folks can’t save enough to spend on their education and professional training since they don’t have access to capital.

Fight for Action on Climate Change

Poverty and climate change are deeply intertwined. If climate experts’ predictions unfold, it will be the poorest countries in the world that are affected first. Natural disasters, water shortages, food shortages, power outages, and failing economies all pose serious risks to those that are the most vulnerable. We have coordinated and organized extensive emergency relief and disaster relief operations to help those in need.


What Are Some Examples of Poverty?

Absolute Poverty

A family living in absolute poverty may not be earning enough to feed or shelter themselves properly. They may have no access to education and spend most of their time finding whatever food they can get from the surrounding land. The family would be in a constant struggle to feed themselves and regularly incur disease and suffer extreme hunger. 

Relative Poverty

A family of four people living in the USA in 1990 with a yearly income of less than $12,100 would be living in relative poverty. Compare this to 2010, they would have to have an income of less than $22,050 to still be living in relative poverty in the USA.

Secondary Poverty

A family suffering from secondary poverty may have one or more people in the family who spend most of their income on unnecessary things such as the act of gambling, buying alcohol, cigarettes, and/or drugs. Often, people with serious addictions spend their money on all four of these things regularly.  

This unnecessary expense through addiction puts the family at risk with little money left to cover necessities such as food, education, healthcare, and household expenses.  


How Do We Define Poverty?

Put simply, poverty is not having enough money to support a person’s basic living needs. We can all help change the state of poverty by working together with our communities, local governments, corporations, world leaders, and world organizations. 

Educational Programs

Learning about poverty is essential in helping the fight against it. If we don’t understand the issues and how poverty is created, we can not properly identify solutions that will be effective. 

Educational programs are therefore vital in the fight against poverty. They can help to spread awareness of the key issues and inform people, communities, and the government on how to help make a change to people’s lives affected by poverty.  


One of the best ways to help end poverty is by creating and supporting channels of food supplies for those communities in need. This could be anything from a regular soup kitchen in downtown Manhattan to regular food supply drops in the heart of a community living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Food For Life Global has been distributing plant-based meals to some of the most desperate communities in the world for over 40 years. Our projects help us to serve over 2 million plant-based meals every day in over 60 different countries around the world. So far, we’ve served over 7 billion meals as part of our mission to end world hunger. 


Making a simple donation regularly can help support the hard work of charities like Food for Life Global in their mission to help those that are suffering in extreme poverty

Support Local Families

Ending poverty relies on communities to come together and support each other. This means keeping your local soup kitchen, helping local families with donations, providing them with necessities, finding them better employment, and uplifting them in any way we can. 

Community Improvement

We need to help each other by demanding more from our local governments, asking them to support those in need by creating initiatives that uplift them. Unfortunately, helping those most in need is rarely a priority and we need communities to come together to demand that they do more.

homeless with dog

Together, we can help end poverty.

Help us in our mission to help those in need by making a monetary contribution to Food for Life Global. Your donation can go a long way to making a difference.


Donate Now

Support the important work of Food for Life Global to serve its international network of over 200 affiliates in 60 countries.
Food for Life Global is a 501(c) (3) charitable organization, EIN 36-4887167. All donations are deemed tax-deductible absent any limitations on deductibility applicable to a particular taxpayer. No goods or services were provided in exchange for your contribution.

Food For Life Global’s primary mission is to bring about peace and prosperity in the world through the liberal distribution of pure plant-based meals prepared with loving intention.

Paul Turner

Paul Turner

Paul Turner co-founded Food for Life Global in 1995. He is a former monk, a veteran of the World Bank, entrepreneur, holistic life coach, vegan chef, and author of 6 books, including, FOOD YOGA, 7 maxims for soul happiness.

MR. Turner has traveled to 72 countries over the last 35 years helping to establish Food for Life projects, train volunteers, and document their success.

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