The United Methodist Board of Church and Society says that every minute 11 children who are 5 or younger die of hunger-related causes, and about 800 million people suffer from chronic or acute hunger. Think this is a problem too big for you to make a difference? Not so. To help you get started, here are a dozen ways you can make a difference today.
1.) Go the second mile through The Advance. The Advance, an accountable, designated-giving arm of The United Methodist Church, ensures 100 percent of each gift reaches its intended mission or ministry. Working in 100 countries around the globe, Advance projects not only alleviate suffering and respond to disasters but also address the root causes of poverty and injustice, and make long-lasting improvements to the quality of life through development and education.
2.) Buy a water buffalo … or a goat … or a flock of chicks through Heifer International. A charitable gift through Heifer International, a United Methodist partner, provides animals and training to help families around the world build a better future for themselves and their communities. Traditionally, recipient families give the first offspring of the animal they receive to another family in need, and the gift, quite literally, keeps on giving.
3.) Make a group, housing or agriculture loan to an entrepreneur across the globe for as little as $25. Kiva is a nonprofit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the Internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend big or small amounts to help create opportunity around the world.
4.) Participate in Stop Hunger Now, a United Methodist partner and international hunger-relief organization that coordinates food distribution and other lifesaving aid. More than 100,000 volunteers have packaged meals through Stop Hunger Now’s meal-packaging program. These meal packages are shipped around the world to support school feeding programs and crisis relief. The food stores easily, transports quickly and has a shelf life of five years.
5.) Urge Congress to end hunger through the Bread for the World letters campaign. The interfaith organization, another United Methodist partner, is a collective Christian voice encouraging U.S. decision-makers to end hunger globally. Bread for the World members write personal letters and emails and meet with members of the U.S. Congress. Working through churches, campuses and other agencies, Bread for the World involves more people in advocacy.
6.) Walk to help others. CROP Hunger Walks sponsored by the United Methodist-supported Church World Service are popular hunger-fighting venues for people of all ages. Walkers of all ages collect pledges for each mile they walk. Today more than 2,000 communities across the United States join in more than 1,600 CROP Hunger Walks each year. More than 5 million people have participated in more than 36,000 CROP Hunger Walks in the last two decades alone.
7.) Become a “backpack buddy.” Children who depend on free school breakfasts and lunches may go hungry at suppertime and on weekends. “Backpack buddies” programs provide children from food-insecure homes with weekend meals during the school year. Local churches and other groups collect and pack bags with child-friendly nonperishable food. In a typical backpack ministry, children receive a backpack containing six balanced meals and two healthy snacks every Friday.
8.) Compete with other congregations. United Methodist churches and other congregations in the Salt Lake City Valley, for example, sponsor the “Golden Celery” Award challenge every summer to benefit a community food pantry. The church with the most pounds of food per attendance at church donated for the month of July wins.
9.)Contribute to — or start — a food pantry at your church. Don’t know much about it? Get involved in community or state food banks to learn. Feeding America is a good resource. Its mission is to feed America’s hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage people in the fight to end hunger.
10.) Deliver Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels is the oldest and largest American organization made up of and representing community-based Senior Nutrition Programs in all 50 U.S. states and well as the U.S. territories.
11.) Glean through the Society of St. Andrew. The ecumenical organization founded by United Methodists has three hunger-relief programs. The Gleaning Network and the Potato and Produce Project deliver donated leftover and unmarketable agricultural produce to people in need. The third — Harvest of Hope — informs people about the hunger problem and invites them to be part of the solution.
12.) Show you care through the Souper Bowl of Caring. Mobilizing young people to fight hunger and poverty in their local communities, Souper Bowl of Caring is a youth-led effort that encourages people to contribute one dollar each at worship services on Super Bowl Sunday. In 2011 across the United States, 15,238 groups generated $9,583,338 in cash and food items for local charities.
Facts about hunger in the world
If you want to learn more about hunger around the world, here are some places to start:
Barbara Dunlap-Berg is the internal content editor at United Methodist Communications.
Photo: Children join volunteer efforts to pack sweet potatoes for the hungry during the Virginia Annual (regional) Conference sessions in Norfolk, Va. A UMNS photo courtesy of the Society of St. Andrew.