Rice & Beans: How You Can Fight Hunger in 7 Days
A few years ago I was volunteering on a weekly basis at a local food pantry. It served neighbors in a low-income community through a 'client-choice' model (meaning that each individual could select their own items in a 'grocery store', with a maximum number of items allowed). I would stock shelves, unload deliveries, sort donations, and 'shop' with the neighbors being served.
One morning, I was helping one elderly gentleman select his groceries when he consulted me for some advice on a dilemma he had. He was trying to figure out which product would go further: toilet paper...or napkins. Toilet paper was what he needed, but, if he selected napkins, he could also select one more food item (based on the pantry's point system). This man and I spent a minute examining both packages and did some quick math to determine that the napkins were the best choice.
It broke my heart and turned my stomach inside out. I have never been faced with that dilemma. And the fact that I couldn't (or didn't) do more that day still haunts me.
Hunger is a big issue.
A REALLY BIG issue.
And it is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity in the 21st century.
In the United States:
- 48.1 million Americans lived in food-insecure households, including more than 15 million children.
- 46.7 million people (15 percent) are in poverty, including 15.5 million (21 percent) children under the age of 18.
- (Stats from feedingamerica.org)
And in the world as a whole:
- 795 million people (1 in 9) suffer from chronic undernourishment.
- Hunger kills more people each year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis COMBINED.
- Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five - 3.1 million children each year.
- The first 1,000 days of a child's life, from pregnancy through age 2, are critical to protecting children from mental and physical stunting due to malnutrition.
- 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa.
- (Stats from stophungernow.org)
Against such overwhelming statistics and countless heartbreaking stories of the realities for those faced with hunger, one is left wondering how much difference we can make. Can one person make a difference? Can even 1,000 people make a long-term impact?
Now there are definitely ways you can go out and make a difference in the fight against hunger. You can volunteer at a food pantry. Donate food to a food bank. Go downtown and eat a meal with a person in homelessness and make a new friend!
But those things might not be for you. It might be that you don't (think that you) have enough time or that you don't have the capacity to donate time or food at this stage in your life. Whatever the reason may be, you don't see those things happening in your life right now. But maybe you still want to do something to combat hunger.
And if that describes you, then this next part is just for you!
One of the most creative (and impact-ful) ways I've seen people make a difference against hunger recently is through something called The Rice and Beans Challenge.
This challenge is for you (and any friends and family you get to join in with you on this).
Here's how it works:
1) Commit to replace as many meals as you can for ONE WEEK with just rice and beans.
2) Track how much money you saved through eating cheaper with rice and beans.
3) Donate that money to a worthwhile organization that is combating hunger.
But initiatives like this are always more meaningful when done with others. So get your friends and family together on this. Plan rice and bean dinners together where you all make a different 'dish' using those two ingredients. Swap recipes. Compete against each other and see who can replace more meals in those 7 days.
It can be as complex or simple as you want it. And yet, regardless of the number of meals you skip - you can make a difference in the fight against hunger.
So get together some friends. Eat some rice and beans. And fight hunger.