Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bloggers Unite: Hunger and Hope

I signed up for the latest Blogger's Unite event as soon as I got the email. I mean, how could I not? Ending hunger is an admirable goal. Yet as I played around with posts ideas and looked up some stuff, it got very depressing. Its just such a huge problem. Where do you start? What can a 30-something mom from Los Angeles do to combat something this massive?

From the beginning of time there has been hunger in the world. It is in all countries, in all cultures and in all religions. Everyone has had some contact with human hunger whether it is being hungry themselves, helping someone who is hungry or turning a blind eye to the plight of many. In our usual day-to-day life we did what most bourgeoisie do. I put my change into the pushkes lined up along the counter of the burger place. I gave a neatly folded dollar to the lady sitting outside the grocery store. I filed away the requests for donations and then doled out the remnants of our budget at the end of the month. I taught my daughters to put a penny into the tzedakah box before Shabbat and when making challot.

This last Pesach, Aba was approached by someone we knew who asked if we would like to give money to a family in Israel so that they could prepare for the chag. "Sure," he says marking something off of his mental to-do list. This person could guarantee that 100% of the money would go to the family...it was a relative of their spouse. 

While poverty and hunger in Israel is something I read about often and hear about frequently, this case seemed more personal and real to me. I don't know these people; if I ran into them on the street I wouldn't know it. Yet being the family of someone I know makes their plight much harder to ignore. And here we come to the crux of the problem. I can give all of my money to help feed the hungry and it will help...for now. A family will eat for Pesach and Shabbat. They will have a nice meal for Sheva Brachot. Their children will be able to concentrate at school with a full belly. Until the money runs out. Then what? This is where organizations like Heifer International come in. 

Instead of giving money to the poor so that they can purchase food, Heifer provides animals, training, and opportunities for the impoverished to raise sheep for wool, goats and cows for milk, butter and cheese, chickens and ducks for eggs as well as rabbits, honeybees, trees and llamas. These animals not only provide instant food for their recipients, but form the core of a new enterprise and (bezrat Hashem) many years of benefit for the community as a whole. In the most simplest of terms this is an embodiment of the axiom "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him to fish and you feed him for life." 

And yet I'm a bit back to where I started. What can a 30-something mom from Los Angeles do? Yes, I can throw money at it by donating to Heifer. I can talk up their cause so that others will feel inclined to donate or volunteer. I can write to my state and federal representatives and let them know how much ending world hunger means to me. These are all necessary and lofty deeds and things we should all do. But what if we want to bring this home? How do I teach this to my children?

We could attempt to feed yourself on $1.00 a day. Yes, that isn't really an accurate measure because of costs variances and wage variances. Might be a good tool for a child who understands the value of money, though.

You could volunteer at a local food pantry or soup kitchen. Why not make a shopping list of what to buy for the next can drive in your community?

You could attend an Empty Bowls event. We haven't done this but I think it would be a wonderful tool to teach young children.

In our house we will be looking at one of the girls' favorite animal books (Bright Baby Farm) and talking about what we get from the animals. Then I'm going to let them pick out one to donate from Heifer's gift catalogue.

eta: The girls chose rabbits, goats and sheep so we got a share of each. Of course, that was after I told them we couldn't visit the ducks and there wasn't a dog or elephant.

I'm also going to work hard at cutting our food waste, make a better effort at shopping locally and I'm going to start keeping a pitcher next to the sink to "reclaim" water for my plants and toddler fun.

What are you doing to fight world hunger and what can you do to help your children understand it?