Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Unite for Hunger and Hope

Today is Bloggers Unite for Hunger and Hope Day. Along with thousands of other bloggers, today's post is about world hunger.

When I woke this morning, I could hear a loon calling to its mate, birds chirping outside my window...and my stomach growling - a signal that I shouldn't even think about lounging in bed another minute.

As I sat at the table with a bowl of granola, I read an online letter to the editor of a local paper about the need to reduce bus fares for the intellectually disabled. As the author of the letter said, "As a society, we fully know that some people are unable to work at high paying jobs and pay a high cost of living. When the cost of living has gone up, the income for these intellectually disabled people does not rise like other employees. In poor economic times, they have less to spend than the rest of us."

I couldn't help but wonder that if, as the author noted, some people "have less to spend than the rest of us", what other essentials are they missing in their lives?

And just how many people are therefore living with long-term hunger? It struck me that hunger is not something I need to worry about. We've all gone hungry, from time to time, but I have never experienced long-term hunger. The kind of hunger that, according to the Freedom From Hunger website, "negatively affects people’s health, productivity, sense of hope and overall well-being. A lack of food can stunt growth, slow thinking, sap energy, hinder fetal development and contribute to [intellectual disability]."

Let's face it, I've lived a pretty cushy life, my body untouched by the ravages of hunger. Elsewhere in the world, "This year (as every year) 11 million children younger than 5 will die needlessly, more than half from hunger-related causes.

815 million people in the developing world are undernourished. They consume less than the minimum amount of calories essential for sound health and growth."

Closer to home, over 700,000 Canadians are assisted by a food bank every month, and The Daily Bread Food Bank notes that "47% of clients accessing a food bank have a disability or serious illness."

So...What can one person do to help millions of starving people all over the world? When you put it that way, it sounds overwhelming. But maybe one person can reach out to help one family.

Food Banks Canada urges us to work together, for "individuals and organizations do make a difference. By lobbying, working for change and raising awareness of the hunger problem, progress has been made towards both short and long-term solutions to hunger in Canada."

The Cleveland Food Bank came up with a list of creative special events - ideas that would be easy to implement, either in a business, nonprofit, or as an individual.

BAKE SALE: Have employees donate baked goods and sell them to others in the company or to neighboring companies. Inform neighboring companies of the sale and invite them to participate.

DRESS DOWN DAY: This event is perfect for companies with formal dress codes. Participants pay $5, for example, to dress down for a day. Pass out buttons or put up signs that display the reason for dressing down.

RAFFLE: This is perhaps the easiest way to raise money. You sell tickets for a chance to win money or a prize. When all tickets are sold, select a winning ticket at random. The most effective way to raise money is through a raffle of donated prizes. Ask your vendors or clients to contribute!

AUCTION: Have employees donate anything from a home-baked pie to a weekend at their vacation cottage. You can also solicit donations of gift certificates and other items from area merchants.

LUNCH : Sell pizza and pop for lunch one day. A local restaurant might donate the pizza or sell it to you at a reduced cost for your cause. Ask for donations in writing and follow-up with a phone call.

CONTESTS: Promote competition between departments by holding different contests. Whichever department collects the most food wins a lunch or ice cream social. One company holds a "Food Collection Display Decorating Contest".

COOKBOOK: Produce a cookbook featuring employees' favorite recipes. Sell them to employees, customers, vendors and friends.

COIN WARS: Plan a penny war at your organization. Each department collects change in a container. Employees throw bills into the container of another department in order to "cancel out" that department's change. In other words, change in the container equals positive points, bills equal negative points. The team with the most positive points at the end of the war wins.

If none of those ideas appeal to you, then consider making a secure, online donation to your local foodbank.

What have you done in the fight against hunger? I've given a few suggestions, but I'd love to hear from you.

I'd like to end this post with an excerpt from The Perfect Pantry, which says it all:


An inspirational and achievable goal. Recipe adapted from Share Our Strength. Serves 12 million children.

Volunteers with soul
Event participants with interest
Chefs and restaurants with heart
Corporations with a conscience
Local organizations and partners with vision

Combine a huge desire to help end childhood hunger with a dash of inspiration. Blend with volunteers, chefs, corporate partners and event participants. Generously add perseverance. Taste and adjust ingredients as necessary.

Serve with a bold, innovative and unique national hunger strategy to surround every child with nutritious food where they live, learn, and play.

Include state and local governments, organizations and nonprofits who can help families help themselves by increasing access to the public and private programs that can provide food to those who need it.

[This bold yet achievable recipe is best served with hope. With your help, we will end childhood hunger in [North] America. To learn more, visit http://www.strength.org/.]



Danny boy said...

Photos of widespread empty tummies elsewhere bleakly contrast with the visible reality of widespread bulging tummies throughout our North American society.

This may not be the best signal from “us” while trying to make friends “elsewhere”.

Maureen Lee said...

Thanks for your feedback, Danny. It's true that the conspicuous consumption of North Americans is all too evident to the rest of the world. And so it's hard to imagine that there are people right here in our own backyard who are going hungry.

However, the number of people who are going hungry throughout the world is more than three times the entire United States population. We have the tools, knowledge and resources to reduce extreme poverty and hunger, and it's good to know that each of us can make a difference. There is hope.

Danny boy said...

Yes, thank God, “there is hope”. That is because there exists individuals like you, Maureen, along with orgs like Ideal-Way, that do not just talk the talk.

You walk the walk. Unlike too many of the rest of us, you actually practice what you preach. Good on you, and all like you.

Maureen Lee said...

Thanks, once again, for your kind words, Danny!

yvonne said...

reducing public transportation fares for persons with intellectual disability seems like a worthy ambition. In many ways, these persons can be vulnerable in public.

one challenge may be how to provide them with reduced fares without also attracting unwanted attention by others ... in particular, others with UNworthy ambitions.

Maureen Lee said...

Good point, Yvonne. Perhaps one way of avoiding unwanted attention would be a regionwide fare card. The Toronto Transit Commission is in the process of implementing the Presto card, which will be introduced in three stages. It will begin this fall and end in late 2010.

"The cards are available at transit depots, retail outlets, and online for $5. At the time of receiving the card, a pass or a money value of at least $20 must be loaded into the card. This system is more advanced than others because rather than just money values, passes (up to three per transit system at a time) can also be stored in the card. When boarding, riders tap the prepaid card, embedded with a computer chip, on a reader. The reader will check for either the pass's expiry date, or automatically deduct the fare from the card. The fact that the cards work on multiple transit systems is only one of their advantages. While the Presto card is automatically set for adult fares, the card can also be set for fares of a different category."

Imagine a card for the intellectually disabled? Since most people who use the transit system on a regular basis will be using this card, in the future, no one would know what particular Presto card you're using.

simona said...

childhood hunger can have lifelong physical, emotional and intellectual repercussions for the individual affected, as well as for the society in which that child fails to thrive.

Maureen Lee said...

You're right, Simona. It's important to remember that childhood hunger reaches far beyond the individual, for we're all connected. Each one of us can make a difference in the life of one child, and by joining hands with others, our entire community is changed.

knotguy said...

long term undernourishment abuses the body, mind and spirit.

I suspect that long term OVERnourishment (obesity) produces similar results. The difference may be that most overnourishment is caused by internal circumstances whereas, most undernourishment is caused by external circumstances.

“moderation in everything” was my mom’s mantra.

merely through accident of birthplace, I had a choice.

Francis said...

I love your post ... and each of us can make a difference indeed. Keep us the fantastic work, Maureen. By the way, a friend of mine reads your blog all the time and passed it on to me.

Maureen Lee said...

Yes, I agree, knotguy, that "most undernourishment is caused by external circumstances", and so it's wonderful to know that because I live in a land of plenty, I can do my little bit towards alleviating hunger, even if it touches only one family.

Thank you, Francis, for your kind words, and for taking the time to visit our blog. "Each of us can make a difference indeed"!

Anna said...

Great topic. Came across your blog after entering some clients in The Ideal Way Poetry Competition. Way to go!

Anna Palumbo PSW
Alberta, Canada

Maureen Lee said...

Thanks, Anna, and we're very glad you entered some clients in the The Ideal Way Poetry Competition!

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