Hunger

I’m looking to donate to a charity that addresses childhood hunger. It’s personal. Let me explain.

Hunger is a theme in my family along two fronts. First, my mother and her siblings. As I’ve written before, they were war refugees. They one day were given a few hours to leave their farm, and they took whatever possessions they could. The family of eight ended up living in a single room with one light bulb and no plumbing.

Things didn’t get better for a long time. My grandparents were often away for weeks at a time to try and make a living. So, the siblings raised each other.

My mother never mentioned this to me, but my father said that my mother and her siblings often went hungry. In fact, she and all of her older siblings passed away by the age of 65. My father guesses it was because of the long-term effects of malnutrition.

Second, as I’ve written before, my life changed when I was eight years-old and my mother became very sick with renal failure and almost died quite a few times over an extended period. I remember going hungry a lot. I remember one day that there was only a can of Del Monte peas in the pantry.

At school, I used to get nauseous a lot and be sent to the nurse’s office. “Did you have breakfast?” she’d ask? I had not. She used to give me some graham crackers and that would make me feel better.

With my mother in the hospital a great deal and various (indifferent) caretakers rotating in and out, we ate a lot of junk food, frozen food, and take out. As an eight year-old, I cooked a Thanksgiving dinner by myself, as I felt that if I didn’t do it, no one would. And, I didn’t want some lame pizza for Thanksgiving.

So, hunger is a personal issue for me and deeply so.

Frankly, there’s a great deal of good news that came out of all this. My mother and her siblings became very generous adults. My grandparents, even when they were short of money, would give something to every beggar who came to their door.

As for me, I became very independent very early, and I’m a really good cook. It really is a joy to cook for my children. If a handyman or plumber comes over on the weekend and works through lunch, I’ll make something for him/her.

Also, I’m always on the look out to help children in vulnerable situations. Specifically, Mrs. T. and I have given significantly to a local project called Genesis II, which supports single and homeless mothers undergoing drug rehab. We also give to combat sex trafficking, as most sex workers begin these days at age 13. I still remember fondly the opportunity to give premium Red Sox seats to a boy who lives in public housing (more here).

So, if you know of a charity that does a great job of addressing childhood hunger, let me know? We live in the U.S. amidst tremendous economic bounty. We this holiday season need to remember those who are struggling.

12 thoughts on “Hunger

  1. This hits home for me as well. I spent a lot of time in section 8 housing, with my only meals provided at school. Weekends were frequently spent in hunger.

    My family makes it personal. We’ve found families in need, not just of food, but clothing and gifts to bring that holiday spirit. We’re sponsoring 10 families this year, all found through Facebook. It’s become the meaning of the season for us.

  2. Hi Jo! I think you would be interested in what we’re doing in Alameda County (where Oakland is). I work for an elected official there directing an initiative called All-In Alameda County. We have a variety of anti-poverty goals, but ending hunger in the county by 2020 is our tightest focus. In a county of only 1.5 million people, with approximately 1 in 5 people using the food bank every month, the problem is significant, but you can get your head around solving it. We’re ending hunger through immediate fixes, like buying industrial refrigerators for schools that don’t have kitchens so they can keep leftovers from school lunches fresh and distribute to families for dinner; and we’re also looking at systems change within government, like applying common sense technology (i.e. automatically enrolling kids on free/reduced lunch in food stamp program) so that thousands more families can take advantage of this hugely effective benefit. We’re also engaging the business community and designing a comprehensive system of “food recovery,” in which surplus food from restaurants, grocery stores, and even the sports stadiums is diverted from the waste stream, and instead will find its way to hungry families, using a smart phone app we will customize for our county at an upcoming hack-a-thon. All this to say, with the incredible abundance of good food in our communities, I believe we can end hunger. Many actors have a role to play, but with coordination, creativity, and dedicated resources, every child can have a full belly and healthy body. Thanks for writing your post, Jo. I share your passion on this issue!

  3. Thank you, Jo! No, that link is for the county food bank, which is one of our key partners. If you’d like to make a donation to All-In Alameda County, please send it to our fiscal agent, the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation http://www.venturesfoundation.org/. Here is the info:

    All-In Alameda County
    Attn: Dawn Hawk
    Philanthropic Ventures Foundation
    1222 Preservation Park Way
    Oakland, CA 94612

    Here is our All-In website (though I’m dying to change it…I find the photos depressing!): http://www.acgov.org/allin/
    The info here is VERY general and outdated compared to where our plans are now. I came on as full time director of the initiative only in July, and have been doing a lot of infrastructure and capacity building between then and now. Happy to say we are poised to take action in 2016! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    If you don’t mind, I will put your name on our mailing list for our newsletter so you can see what we’re up to. You are very kind to lend your support!

    Warmest wishes for the holidays, Jo!

    1. Will process paperwork later today. Of course, please put me on the email list. You’ve always been a good soul, MM. I’m so happy to see you involved with such an important initiative.

  4. Right back at you, JT! It’s funny, a few years ago at a career inflection point (okay, who are we kidding, it was about becoming middle aged! ;-), I reflected on my values, and sought to align my career with them more closely. I realized that the single most important thing for me as a mother was feeding my children good and healthy food everyday. I feel a huge sense of purpose around it, and even on the busiest of days, it is the thing that always gets done. It made a lot of sense to me to explore that sense of purpose beyond my own family, and I feel very blessed that my work life has evolved the way it has. In the challenging times we live in, feeding people well and enough is where I will make my stand. Thank you, my friend. <3

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