It is easy to give when you have a lot. You know what I mean. The kid’s school says ‘food drive’ and you head to the pantry to grab a series of canned goods you know you can replenish on your next trip to the store. You pass someone with a sign that says, “Homeless: Will Work For Food”… you have cash in your purse, so you put some in their hand.
It doesn’t hurt. You didn’t have to think about it long and hard. You didn’t wonder how you would ‘manage’ to feed the hungry mouths in your family while choosing to feed someone with a greater need than your own.
It is the people who give when it isn’t easy…. the people who teach children to give when it isn’t easy that I admire the most. They are the ones you and I should be taking lessons from on a regular basis.
Take Marian Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri….an oasis of education, of love, of giving….for 72 girls in 5th through 8th grade. The school is in its 12th year and pulls girls from all around the St. Louis area…23 different zip codes, to be exact.
The school is making it a goal to break the cycle of poverty through education. All of the families who entrust their girls to Marian are at or below the poverty level, and yet… they give. The school, the girls and their families are actively working to fight hunger in their community. Through their efforts, they are also combating childhood obesity.
And it is amazing.
When I agreed to work with Con Agra Foods for the third time on their Child Hunger Ends Here Campaign, I loved that they were partnering with Schools Fight Hunger. Why? Because I think it is so important to involve kids in the process of combating child hunger.
And the girls at Marian do it with gusto – just like they do everything…learn, greet others and spread kindness.
Let me share the highlights…. since these girls and the men and women who lead them wouldn’t settle for just ONE way to fight this epidemic.
The Garden Project – A garden planted and cared for by the girls of Marian that provides food for the school’s Prepare and Share program (detailed below) as well as a few families in need. The additional benefit of the Garden, is, naturally, its ability to serve as an educational tool. (think science class) In partnership with Saint Louis University, the Garden belongs to the entire school, but is the ‘baby’ of the 5th grade class. It is lovingly planted and maintained by small hands.
Prepare and Share. The girls learn that Cooking Matters. For seven weeks, these young women at the school will rotate through a program that helps them to understand how to make healthy food choices. They learn to shop for the ‘right’ foods. While many of these girls have food at home, it isn’t often the most nutritious. They keep food journals. They learn to cook at the school and for their families. They take food home and, in fact, their families will even ‘grade’ them on their efforts.
Service Learning Class: The Lesson: Hunger is not just a ‘me’ issue. It is local. It is national. It is global. The girls of Marian are learning to combat hunger through service. With pockets full of pennies and minds brimming with bright ideas, these young woman work to raise money for Kids Against Hunger – an organization that provides packaged foods to 3rd World countries. With a goal of $1000, these girls have planned an ice cream social, a movie night and a lemonade sale. And daily, they come to school, change clutched tightly in their little hands. Of the $800 they have raised so far, more than $200 has been in coins.
Last year, in a student-lead Thanksgiving effort, the school collected more than 500 canned goods for Hosea House, an organization that provides service to needy families in South St. Louis in times of emergency. It won’t surprise you to know they are doing the same thing again this year.
They give, expecting nothing in return.
Let this be a lesson to us. If the smallest among us can give almost all that they have to make sure no one around us goes hungry, why not let them be our example?
This post is part of a series in my effort to raise awareness about Child Hunger. I have been working with Con Agra Foods on their Child Hunger Ends Here Campaign. All thoughts are my own.