• Tuesday, December 16, 2014

    Christmas and Hunger

    Last weekend I had an amazing experience. We drove 6 hours to Dallas to work in the Operation Christmas Child shoebox processing center. Operation Christmas Child is an arm of Samaritan’s Purse and collects personal, shoe-box sized gift boxes from Christians in the US (and other countries) and sends them to children in need in the developing world. We have participated in this program for 6 Christmases sending boxes, but this was our first opportunity to help process the boxes for OCC. In the 6 hours we worked, our team of about 9 or 10 people processed approximately 1300 boxes. We were one of at least 18 teams working, and a second shift went to work after we left. They expected to process over 600,000 boxes at that center this year and over 7 million boxes total.  It was such a rewarding experience.

    Working at the Operation Christmas Child Processing
    Center has been one of the highlights of my Christmas so far.
    We even found some 4H stickers on some boxes.
    Back to food…

    With this season of giving and all the joy it brings, I can’t help but think of those who go without. Without food, without clothes, without enough money to buy gifts for their families. In Dallas this weekend, I saw several billboards about hunger and the people that suffer with hunger. I’ve been wanting to write a post about hunger for some time, I think God was telling me it was time.

    Facts about hunger

    The facts and figures on global hunger are staggering.

    ·         Hunger kills more people globally than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis COMBINED

    ·         805 million people do not have enough food to live active healthy lives (That’s 1 in 9)

    ·         Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of the deaths of children under 5.

    ·         In a world where 1 in 4 kids’ growth is stunted due to poor nutrition, adding one egg per day can increase a child’s height and weight by 50%.

    But what I find even more amazing are the hunger statistics in developed countries like the US.

    ·         49 million Americans are food insecure

    ·         Almost 16 million children are food insecure nationally (about 1 in 5 US kids)

    ·         Arkansas tops the list in the percentage of food insecure households, followed by Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee, and North Carolina (hits a little too close to home, doesn’t it?)

    ·         In the US, 4.8 million seniors are food insecure (about 8%)

    What can be done?

    Obviously, you can give to your local food bank or food pantry. Kids have canned food drives all the time, and it’s really easy to send a few cans of green beans or corn. However, remember that the most expensive nutrient is protein. It may cost a little more to send canned chili or stew, meaty soups, tuna, pasta with meat balls, Vienna Sausages, or even peanut butter, but it will be much appreciated. Protein helps people fill fuller longer and helps kids learn.

    Several lists of things food banks need have been making the rounds on social media, check out these from Second Harvest Food Bank, Buzz Feed, and KORD Radio. Of course, monetary donations can have a bigger impact than food because food banks can buy exactly what they need, and they can buy food at discounted prices.

    Dairy farmers like my friend Carrie work with Feeding America to provide families local milk. You can donate to their cause with a simple text.

    To combat global hunger, Heifer International gives people in developing countries livestock to raise for milk, eggs, and meat. For as little as $20 you can donate a flock of chickens or geese to a struggling community. One summer, our church raised enough money to purchase a heifer. Samaritan’s Purse has similar programs that give goats and other farm animals to families in need. This kind of giving empowers people to provide for themselves and stimulated the economy in the impoverished communities.

    You can volunteer. Call the local food bank or food pantry to find out when they need helpers. Give time to the Salvation Army. Locally, we have Cobblestone Farm where food is grown to support hungry families in the community. Volunteers come throughout the year to plant, tend and harvest crops that given to local folks in need or sold to fund their other giving programs.

    Don’t know where to look for volunteer opportunities? Try searching Volunteer Match.

    The easiest way to help is to spread the word.
    • Talk about hunger.  
    • Share these statistics with you friends and family.  
    • Like and follow some of these groups on social media and share their message.

    Awareness of the issue is the first step to starting to solve the problem.

    I can’t imagine not having enough money to provide food for my kids, especially during Christmas. It just breaks my heart to think of people going through this joyous holiday season with the worry of not having enough to eat.

    Think about ways you can help.

    Share in the comments what you and your family do to combat hunger locally, nationally, and globally.