When I was a senior in college, I lived and studied in Cairo, Egypt. During my time there, I saw so much hunger. Sometimes, the need would almost paralyze me. Once back in the U.S., my experience in Cairo always served to give me perspective — as I struggled through graduate school or felt weighed down by student loan debt, I reminded myself of how blessed I was. I always knew I would eat — even if it was simply noodles. I also distanced myself from hunger — thinking it was an issue “over there.” (Isolated and rare in the U.S.) As I worked in public schools in the U.S., I saw how wrong I was. I worked with children who often only ate while at school, children who would sneak food home with them for younger siblings, children who were malnourished and yet obese and diabetic. I saw that hunger is a global problem and it will take all of us to solve it.
870 million people around the world battle hunger — getting involved anywhere and everywhere matters. I’ve been proud to see so many different bloggers from Multicultural Kid Blogs participating in the Moms Fighting Hunger Blog Hop and am glad to be here today sharing 10 more ways to make a difference.
1. Increase Mindfulness and Reduce Food Waste – In the U.S., 40% of our food is thrown away; 90 million tons of food is wasted annually in Europe; and 1.3 billion tons of edible food is thrown away worldwide each year — that’s approximately 30% of all food available for human consumption going in the trash. No matter where you live, mindful shopping, meal planning and smart food consumption can make a significant difference. Mama Mzungu shared a powerful and personal story from Kenya about recognizing food waste and being aware of “hidden hunger.”
2. Make Sustainable Food Choices –Food Waste, Hunger and Sustainable Food Production are all connected. Shopping locally reduces food waste as food often rots on its way to its destination. Food Matters by Mark Bittman and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver both inspired me to focus on eating locally. Decreasing meat consumption is another simple way to eat more sustainably. Here’s some of our favorite veggie recipes — perhaps you could start a Meatless Monday tradition at your home. Also check out Eating Green: A Beginners’ Guide to Sustainable Food Choices.
3. Talk About It – It may seem simple or it may even seem scary, but talking to our children about hunger is part of the solution. Children can be profoundly empathetic and may become more aware of their own food consumption and food waste if they learn about hunger (and no, I’m not encouraging parents to tell their kids about “starving children in…wherever” in a moment of frustration during a difficult dinner time). I’m encouraging meaningful conversations about hunger. Not sure how? Kid World Citizen shared 7 Lessons for Teaching Children About Hunger and Pennies of Time shows how she used a book to teach her children about hunger.
4. Give Money or Your Time – We’ve heard it before, but it matters and it works. All Done Monkey shared Anti-Hunger Organizations around the globe and Varya of Creative World Of Varya recently shared her personal experience with me of working with a charity/non-profit in China that did not accept food donations given some staff and logistical challenges, but rather preferred monetary donations or volunteer hours. Consider supporting one of the organizations Leanna of All Done Monkey shared in her post or learning about a charity in your local community that could use some help/support. Bonus: many organizations working to fight hunger can turn $1 into 10 meals.
5. Play Games – This is another great way to involve children. When I worked at an after-school program, my students loved playing these games. Some of those students themselves struggled with hunger, so donating money or food items were not options for them in helping others, but they did want to help others who also struggled with hunger so Free Rice was a great option. The World Food Programme has games on their site too. With Free Rice, every correct answer correlates with grains of rice. With the World Food Programme (WFP) Food Force game, money spent in the game funds WFP school meals in the real world.
6. Garden – Growing your own food is part of the solution. I recently watched a TEDx Talk about the Green Bronx Machine, an example of one teacher tackling the issue of hunger in the Bronx head on by creating a school garden, then community gardens and much more. He shows how a community that is a “food desert” can become an oasis. If you garden and have an abundance of tomatoes, zucchinis, etc. see if your local food pantry will take fresh produce, I was happy to learn that mine does!
7. Use Storytime + Engage your Local Library – In many communities, libraries are centers of engagement and provide opportunities for outreach. Crafty Moms Share offers clever story time options that allow for a food drive component, which is an excellent way to get children involved. Your library probably also has resources for learning more about hunger and sustainable food production — see what books you can find. Learn and share.
8. Teach Gratitude – I feel that nurturing gratitude and appreciation in our children and as a family is critical for reducing food waste, overeating, overconsumption and so much more. By learning, as a family, to appreciate what we have, we will consume less and give more. Last November, The Iowa Farmer’s Wife showcased various activities for teaching gratitude.
9. Plan – World Food Day is October 16th — The World Food Day site features 14 ways to Act and so many have been shared through the Blog Hop too, so if you are thinking that you just can’t do anything right now during Hunger Action Month, or are doing something small, but want to do something big — plan now so that you can join in with something big next month! Last year, Curly Birds shared a great post on How To Host A Food Drive, so if you think a food drive might be right for you, she’s got valuable tips to get you started.
10. Do One Small Thing – What you do doesn’t have to be big to make a difference. Remember, making small changes and taking action locally can have a big impact globally. If you see someone that is homeless, see if you have an extra dollar to give them or perhaps an extra protein bar/granola bar or piece of fruit in your snack bag for your kids. At the grocery store, just buy one extra canned food item or jar of peanut butter and donate it to the local food pantry — protein items are always in high demand so think beans, canned meats and nut or seed butters. Look in your pantry and see if their are any items that have been there for several months — decide to either use them this week or donate them (check expiration dates please!). Even donating 1 or 2 items matters. It doesn’t have to be complicated or costly to make an impact. The small thing we’re doing this month is collecting all of our spare change to donate to No Kid Hungry at the end of the month. We’ve already got almost $20!! (That’s 200 meals!!) Want something even simpler, use your social media presence to share a tweet, Facebook status or pin to raise awareness.
I’d love to hear what you’ve been inspired to do or what you might already be doing in your community or globally to help in the fight against hunger. Share here or on the Moms Fighting Hunger Facebook page, we’d love to know!
Jennifer is a mom of two, as well as an independent filmmaker who has taught filmmaking to youth and has run after-school programs through her company Generation Arts. She writes about her experiences with Wild Thing and Caterpillar at The Good Long Road with an emphasis on mindfulness, imagination, and creative activities related to her toddler and preschooler’s favorite children’s books. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.