Our family had an idea for Thanksgiving this year.
Instead of writing a month of mindless “I’m grateful” posts on Facebook, sitting through the forced “gratefuls” at the Thanksgiving dinner table, and stuffing ourselves sick in honor of Thanksgiving like we usually do, what if we used this season to be truly grateful? What if we turned Thanksgiving from a holiday… into an experience.
What if we went hungry for one meal so another family could eat?
And that’s when The Hungry Project was born.
The idea was this: We skip one meal this month. Like, actually go without. No snacks, no sneaking, no shoving a late dinner into our bellies. No, we would actually go hungry for one meal. Leave our plates silent and untouched to gain a small understanding of the estimated 49.1 million Americans who are food insecure — too many of these children, too many of these seniors. Over 49 million too many people who are living without … in the land of plenty.
Disney recently donated $1 million dollars to the Feeding America foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to running 200 networked food banks across the country and estimated to feed more than 41 million hungry people — 10 million of those children in 2013 alone. I’m so grateful to hear big corporations making sizable donations to worthy causes like this. As a family, our donation will be significantly smaller, but I hoped turning it into The Hungry Project would both benefit hungry families in America while also allowing me to teach a very powerful lesson to my children in a very personal way.
This summer, I wrote about an experience I had taking a homeless mom grocery shopping. The article resonated with millions of readers, and I’m so glad because the story truly resonated with me, too. I read the comments as they poured in and realized the response was so huge because, like me, so many fellow moms and dads are afraid. They’re so afraid it could be them. I became a single mom two years ago, all but entirely responsible for the financial weight of my four children. I feel lucky to have jobs that pay the bills, but I’m keenly aware that I’m just one lost job away from poverty. All the time. I look at the homeless, I read about food insecurity in America, and I don’t see faceless statistics. I see me with a tiny stroke of bad luck.
Despite my concerns about money, I’m fortunate that my children feel safe and secure. They have a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. They’ll enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner. But still, I want them to see. I want them to feel. I want them to develop compassion for friends who haven’t been as lucky as we are. I want them to be willing to share what they have — not hoard it selfishly as too many of us tend to do when we’ve been blessed with abundance.
And so, we’ll pick one dinner. And we’ll set the table. We’ll sit down. And instead of dishing out food, we’ll dive into some of the statistics. We’ll sit with our empty plates and realize there are millions of families in our backyard who do this very thing too many days out of the month. It’s not okay. And it’s up to us to try to do something about it … no matter how small. No matter how meager.
Will you join us? We’d love to have you do your own Hungry Project at home. Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Choose the Day
- Pick a day when you’ll skip dinner.
- Mark it on your calendar.
- Remind your kids that morning. Tip: Feed them an extra hearty breakfast or lunch if you’re worried they won’t be able to handle not eating dinner.
Step 2: Get Prepared
- Print out this cheat sheet with statistics from Feeding America and read through this eye-opening National Geographic article, “The New Face of Hunger”, a powerful report on food insecurity.
Step 3: Set the Table
- You’ll need paper plates and markers — one for each member of your family.
Step 4: Discuss
- Welcome your kids to dinner and remind them that you’re not eating tonight.
- Talk to them about the statistics on your cheat sheet and help them understand why you’re skipping dinner.
Note: Use your discretion in deciding whether your kids can handle not eating dinner. If your kids are young or are super hungry, go ahead and feed them dinner but still talk to them about the problem of hunger in America.
Step 5: Donate
- Donate the money your family would have spent on dinner to Feeding America or another organization fighting to stop hunger.
Step 6: Share
- Invite each family member to write a name on their plate — someone they’d like to challenge to do the Hungry Project. Snap a photo, tag your challengers, then post on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook with #thehungryproject.
Then please, come back here and leave a comment letting us know how The Hungry Project worked in your home. We’d love to hear. And thank you for joining our family in this opportunity to give thanks — in a real and tangible way — by giving help.
Yours in Thanksgiving,
Brooke, Andrew, Becca, Jake, and Alyssa