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"I tried every which way to get my mind off of food," he said. " . . . Looking through my mother's Woman's Home Companions was how I started to eat roast beef and chocolate cake. There was this absolutely gorgeous roast beef-and-gravy ad with little potatoes and carrots a whole page high, and I took a scissors and cut it out and began to eat it. What was amazing was how the paper actually tasted like roast beef. The same with the chocolate cake. I cut that out and then found an ice cream ad, and I put the ice cream on top of the cake and it really tasted chocolate."
"Actually, eating paper was not all that bad. I took little nibbles and drank water with it and my stomach really did feel a little filled up afterward. Also, I could spend a lot of time hunting through the magazines to put together lunches and dinners. I ate things I'd never eaten before. Like artichokes. And avocados. And lamb chops."
I was horrified, as I imagine you are, then haunted by Aaron's story. After sharing it with family and friends, I decided to join President Obama in his goal to end childhood hunger in America by 2015 and to help raise awareness in my own way.
I've since learned that 17.2 million of today's U.S. households struggle to put food on the table. Because of that, more than 16 million of our children are at risk for hunger; which is more than one in five. Lack of sufficient food affects many aspects of children's lives, from physical and mental development to emotional wellbeing. And as adults, hungry children are more likely to suffer from poverty and less likely to become productive citizens.
Thankfully, there are close to a million public food assistance programs and private organizations; each with an array of innovative approaches that can be trusted to help meet the needs of these vulnerable children:
Most helpful are the federal programs, such as SNAP (food stamps), WIC (supplemental food for Women, Infants and Children), and the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.
Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger-relief charity, has a network of 200 food banks. One of its many programs is Kids Cafe which "provides free meals and snacks to low income children through a variety of locations where children already congregate during the afterschool hours."
Another is the Summer Food Program which "provides nutritional, healthy meals, food packages, vouchers, and/or snacks to children at risk of hunger during the summer months when school is not in session."
Another national organization, Share Our Strength, "supports food banks and emergency-relief organizations and works to address hunger's root causes." Through fundraising events like Taste the Nation, the Great American Bake Sales, and Dine Out for No Kid Hungry, they engage millions of people.
And finally, a 2012 Charity of the Year, Blessings in a Backpack, is designed to feed elementary school children whose families qualify for the federally funded National School Lunch Program and have little or no food on the weekend.
Joining Aaron's memoir to haunt me yesterday, was a video of poor children who live just hours away from us. As they stared into the lens of the camera, they stuffed their little mouths with "dirt cookies" made from earth, salt and shortening. I say, let's work together to end this nightmare. Let's donate food or money. Volunteer. Sponsor a child. Start a program. Do something.
By Viaux from Miami, FL
Yes, last year seem to fly by. Like me, I'm sure so many people helped by donating to either thrift stores, churches or charities. For some reason, this goes along with "spring cleaning" or after summer break. I have found out it's now early January through March when donations are so much needed. Holidays are very hard in my favorite charity, battered women shelters. There are many specultions why that may be: drinking, bills, etc. It's a bad time for depression. None of this matters to me. What matters is they need help.
Smaller shelters are struggling for things like soap, shampoo, lotion, diapers; all of the things we have in our bathrooms, pantries or stored away. I will always remember myself leaving with nothing other than my child and the clothes on our backs. This is true for so many this time of the year. It's not only battered women. If your area has a winter program to help the homeless, they are in need of same items; including blankets, pillows, socks, towels and all of the personal care things I mentioned before.
What I'm doing is simple. All of those bottles I have turned upside down in my bathroom and kitchen. I'm always trying to be thrifty, using the last drop of shampoo or lotion. We all have found out once you turn that container upside down, there is so much more in it then it appeared.
At the 99 cent store, you can get little empty travel kits that have four clear bottles in it. Mine even came with labels already printed. Shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash and lotion. Many labels describing personal care items. These were the ones I chose when visiting a friend. It gave me the greatest idea. I will buy several of these travel size kits all containing four clear bottles and fill them with lotion, shampoo, etc. All of those bottles turned upside down can fill more empties then you think.
Purchasing several travel kits and some other products while there can really help out those in need. Think about what everyone needs. Baby wipes, soap; this list could go on and on. Pick out a few things and add it to your purchase. When you get home, fill up some of these bottles and donate them.When you are at the mercy of living outside your home, these things are not taken for granted. I remember wanting a razor so bad.
I promise giving to others at this time of year when so many are in need is so rewarding. Giving is much better than receiving, you'll feel wonderful knowing you did something so small that meant so much. A small bottle of shampoo will delight many who have none. You can use what ever containers you may already have. I just found it perfect to be able to fill many at such a small cost.
Please check out your area and drop off a little something. I pray all of those in need can have a bright, new beginning. Being a little comfortable in whatever setting they may be will make it that much easier.
By Luana M. from San Diego, CA
Once we had neighbors whose son looked a lot like my younger brother. The father provides for his children by climbing coconut trees for some landowners in our place. The mother accepts laundry for an extra income. The son, as the eldest, tries to help his parents by going door to door and offers cleaning services for a dollar.
The young boy happened to drop by our house once and my mother noticed his resemblance to my brother. Our relatives noticed that, too, and so we call him John Number 2. It melted the hearts of everybody, especially seeing the poorer version of my brother. We are not a rich family but if we talk about being fortunate, I would say we are more fortunate than them since we had the chance to go to school and not go around to earn money at that age.
My mother was fond of this little boy and so is my brother. He befriended him and they became good friends. They came along with each other since this boy is very kind and cheerful.
My brother was then in college and attends military training and exercises. They are required to wear white shirts but then his new T-shirts gets brown after the exercises as they crawl into mud and canals as part of their training. Because of this, he needs to keep on buying new white shirts. Those used ones, he would take his weekend and spends so much effort to dye them.
He learned how to use dye and a piece of string to design a shirt at school. He used this skill to work with the shirts so it won't go wasted being dumped on closets. They are still good and durable, only he cannot use them because of the color. So, after dying those shirts, he washes them. It looks new again with colorful swirly designs. My brother then calls for his friend John Number 2 to drop by the house and handed those shirts to him as a gift.
When his T-shirts gets faded and unable to use them, he does this and gives it to him. I remember one time, he made a bamboo coin bank and advised the little boy to save his earnings. He found that bamboo standing on the backyard, it was still good and clean so he just painted it with designs.
We don't have so much money to buy gifts. I help him collect unused materials that can be innovated into something that we could give to our neighbors. It feels good to be using our abilities and share our works to the less fortunate children like John Number 2.
One Christmas, I cooked an extra platter of lasagna for them and I saw how much happiness I was able to paint on their faces. My cousins saw how my brother made so much from leftover stuffs and scraps that he turned into something useful to give to his friend. They did this and shared their works, too. So, I guess, money isn't always the solution to achieve happiness. Happiness can be achieved by making others happy without spending your money.
The image below shows one old blouse my brother dyed for me 3 years ago when I was pregnant on my first child.
Instead of the same old New Year's Resolutions, how about something different that will make you feel good as well as helping others in need.
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Debra, you have some great ideas! And, you are right, it is an incredible feeling to help someone else out. We have mitten trees in our town that you can donate hats, scarfs, and mittens to the area children. The local Lions club always sponsors a toys program, I just love shopping for toys for children! The sad part is, in my area, is that families can only apply for food baskets if they are already receiving from the human services department. There are a lot of families out there that are not on any state assistance, but are just struggling along day to day and need help. I agree with you about helping out with paying part of the utilities, that would be a very welcomed gift; or, maybe a grocery store gift certificate. Even if you can't do anything like that, baking some cookies would be very thoughtful. You have inspired me, Debra, thank you. (11/03/2006)
Bless you Debra, we need more people like you around. I like to donate to my local food pantry. They take anything so I always try to do a canned food drive at my place of work. I also print out heart warming stories of help and assistance and mail off to my kids and friends to help keep them in the spirit. Amy Lane Franklin, IN. (11/07/2006)