Volunteering

The Facts about Worldwide Hunger, and How YOU Can Help

Let’s talk about hunger.

No, I’m not talking about what you might feel when you wake up in the morning and can’t make a bowl of oatmeal fast enough. I’m talking about hunger that kills. As a dietitian, worldwide hunger and nutritional deficiency hit close to home. And as a dietitian, I know that there is more than enough food to feed every single person in the world, and feed them well.

While on a trip back home to Virginia, I had the pleasure of lending my help to an an anti-hunger campaign called Stop Hunger Now, which was hosting a meal-packaging event in my town. I hopped onto the assembly line and made sure meal packets were the right weight and consistency to be shipped off to over 65 countries worldwide. Within two hours we had packaged 25,000 meals. That’s right — 25,000 meals! Each of those packets will feed six children and boasts rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables, and 21 vitamins and minerals.

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Children are hit hard by malnutrition and the diseases that arise from (or are amplified by) not having enough food. Measles, malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia are some of the leading causes of childhood death. And malnutrition can start before kids are even born, if their moms aren’t taking in enough nutrition. Read more about the effects of malnutrition here.

The meals that we packaged were exclusively vegan. Now, depending on what country they are sent to, various meats may or may not be added per the local culture. But the meals cost just 25 cents because they are plant-based.

“Stop Hunger Now created its meal packaging program, in 2005. The program perfected the assembly process that combines rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring mix including 21 essential vitamins and minerals into small meal packets. Each meal costs only 25 cents. The food stores easily, has a shelf-life of two years and transports quickly. Stop Hunger Now works with international partners that ship and distribute the meals in-country.”

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(c) Stop Hunger Now

So if we have enough food to feed everyone in the world, why does one person every three seconds die of hunger or hunger-related illness? I’ll briefly summarize some of the key reasons. I don’t pretend to be an expert in this matter, but I have learned quite a lot through my studies and my travels to food-insecure countries such as Tanzania and the Dominican Republic.

1. Poverty and a Reliance on Meat as a Protein Source

Farmers and families living on $1 or less a day simply cannot afford to buy or trade their food. And farmers trying to make a living off of their own land are often not supported by their governments. As the renowned Marion Nestle writes,

“Governments must support food systems that provide farmers and workers with a reasonable standard of living, replenish soil nutrients, conserve natural resources, and minimize pollution and greenhouse gases—and promote health.” Part of minimizing pollution and greenhouse gases naturally involves growing more plants, and less meat. When the focus is on growing crops to feed animals, an opportunity arises to feed more people instead of fueling a meat-driven system that just isn’t working. 

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2. Climate Change (read the 2009 World Food Programme’s climate report here)

You don’t have to believe in human-accelerated climate change — it’s happening, and it’s been happening, for a long time. Due in part to increased heat and decreased water availability, farmers all over the world will suffer a decrease in agricultural production (mostly wheat, rice, and maize). This will cause an increase in food prices worldwide, but mostly in Africa, South Asia, and Central America. Extreme natural disasters as a result of climate change will  continue to wreak havoc. By 2050, we expect an increase of 10-20% of people at risk of hunger worldwide.

3. Lack of nutrition education.

During my time in Tanzania, I sampled probably twenty kinds of root vegetables, dark leafy greens, and native fruits. Unfortunately, many of them were underutilized by the local population and sometimes even treated as throwaway foods. But these foods were rich in vitamins and minerals, protein, and valuable starch. It takes dedicated professionals to provide nutrition and cooking education to teach people how to rely on the food that their own soil can produce.

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In America, 48 million people are hungry and rely on government initiatives like SNAP. I encourage you to read about the $1 a day challenge — this is something I was tasked to try for one day in college, and it was hard. But over a billion people worldwide have to do for their whole lives. And remember:

“It’s not due to laziness that someone is poor. It’s not due to a lack of ambition or lack of intelligence. It’s because they lack the things that we take advantage of every day.” — Living on One Dollar

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So how can YOU get involved? I’ve compiled a list of Portland-specific organizations that need help. Oregon is the fifth-hungriest state in America.

1. Have a garden, or participate in a community garden? The “Plant a Row” program with the Oregon Food Bank allows you to donate home-grown food to the needy.

2. Want to get involved long-term? Growing Gardens offers programs to help schools start gardens and provide cooking classes. In the summer, weekly garden parties will involve a local Portland chef who can teach people how to cook what they grow. They even have an internship, which will focus on fundraising, building gardens, and hosting garden summer camps.

3. Reduce your own food waste. With so many hungry in the world, it’s a damn shame to throw so much food away. And Americans waste 40% of the food they buy. The Kitchn has a great article on ways to get the most out of the food you buy. And remember to compost your food scraps if you can, as decomposing food in landfills contributes methane to the environment.

4. If you like gardening a whole lot, get involved with the Produce for People Program. Last year they grew and donated 20,3337 lbs of produce to needy families.

5. More of a day-to-day volunteer? The Oregon Food Bank (and any food bank, no matter where you live) needs help. Here’s an easy way to get involved.

6. Host a meal-packaging event with Stop Hunger Now. This would a fantastic event for an organization or club to host. With 40 people, you could package 10,000 meals in two hours, at just 25 cents a meal.

7. Make your dollar count. Support local farmers, and local produce. Alleviate your carbon footprint by reducing your meat intake.

There’s so much more to be said about hunger, and so many experts out there who can say it better than I can. I hope this post left you with the knowledge that hunger and the disease that occur with it can be stopped. What do you know about hunger?

 

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Compassionate Gift Ideas for Anxious Gifters

I have gift anxiety.

I’m not a natural gifter, unlike my best friend or my dear mom. More often than not I cringe when someone opens my gift to them, expecting obvious disappointment to show up on their faces once they open up whatever I’ve hastily assembled for them. (Don’t worry, it doesn’t usually turn out to be that depressing.)

That is why I absolutely love gift guides! I stumbled across the Leaping Bunny‘s interactive cornucopia of compassionate gifting ideas and had to share it with all of you. If you’re struggling to find that last person on your list’s gift, this might be the answer for you. Every ornament on the trees will display a special deal or discount the company is offering. Take a look!

Featured companies include:

  • Andalou Naturals (I’ve recently sampled their products and really enjoy the fruit peels)
  • CommonGood
  • Dr. Bronner’s
  • Mineral Fusion
  • Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day (I live by their counter spray!)
  • South of France

…and many more!

I also have to rep VeganCuts. It’s true what they say: ’tis the season for cruelty-free gifting! VeganCuts offers beauty boxes and snack boxes that can be gifted one-time, or set up for monthly doorstep deliveries. Who doesn’t love getting a box of new goodies every month?

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Feed them — with food or words. Treats and cookbooks are always a good option. But how about both of those combined into one fantastic book? That’s right: Vegan Food Gifts (Joni Marie Newman) will inspire your crafty friend to make treats all year long.

Donate in someone’s name. Most people have a favorite cause, whether it’s animal rights, community development, green initiatives, or supporting the local economy. You know your friends and family better than I do! For that person who has everything, a credited donation can be a fantastic and thoughtful gift.

Know a self-professed gourmand? Peruse foranima‘s Food & Kitchen section. From baked goods to biodegradable plateware, there’s bound to be something for a classy someone in your life.

Support a local business and set up a couple months’ worth of produce delivery for someone important to you. Believe me, they’ll appreciate the time you saved them shopping for fruits and veggies! In Portland I like to rep Organics to You, a company I’ve been using for a year. They always surprise me with something new to cook with, and it couldn’t be easier to eat my fruits and vegetables.

Spend time. When all else fails and your gifts just aren’t working out, fall back to the real point of the holidays: spending time with the people in your life.

What kinds of gifts are you giving this holiday season?

Portland’s the (vegan) caterer, and how YOU can give back this holiday season

The holidays are here, and I couldn’t be happier. Bring on the overambitious Pinterest recipes, the non-denominational greeting cards, the friends-givings and family gatherings!

The holidays give us an excuse to throw parties, give back to our community, and make memories with our neighbors…sometimes, all at once! Last Friday, I had the privilege of helping out the (vegan) caterer, a Portland-based catering company, throw a benefit banquet for the Pigs Peace Sanctuary.

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“Volunteering fills my heart when it gets empty.” That’s what one of my college mentors told me, and it’s stuck with me to this day. Volunteering gives you a chance to forget yourself, and start focusing on others. Even if it’s for a day, a morning, or an hour, I’ve always this sentiment to be true. And as a vegan dietitian, I don’t think it gets much better than serving and enjoying some delicious, cruelty-free food with my own community.

As happy as the holidays can be for humans, the same does not go for animals. Thanksgiving in particular permits us to stuff ourselves all day long, with a menu traditionally centered on meat and dairy. But if you’ve tasted the magic of Field Roast or some dairy-free ‘nog, you know that compassionate alternatives can more than satisfy a crowd. Verbatim quote from my omnivore friend who tagged along: “This is the best roast I have ever eaten. Period.”

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The good folks over at the (vegan) caterer make it possible for the community to enjoy holiday banquetwith a healthy side of compassion. Here’s some shots from the banquet!

(The following pictures were taken by Mark Rainha and edited by myself.)

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From left to right, we have marinated green beans and carrots; field roast slices with a mushroom and sage gravy; and cranberry-glazed tofu. Not pictured is the mashed sweet potato with torched dandies (vegan marshmallows). That night, I learned that it is incredibly difficult to remain calm and collected when the aroma of freshly torched dandies is wafting around!

Here’s Josh, the owner of the (vegan) caterer, torching those dandies.

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Dinner was served to over 100 guests at the Village Ballroom, a cozy venue in Northeast Portland.

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Look at those happy volunteers 🙂

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Here’s Judy Woods of the Pigs Peace Sanctuary, located just north of Seattle. She does amazing, selfless work rescuing pigs from all walks of life and has been doing so since 1994. The Sanctuary now houses over fifty pigs, who live in peace on 39 acres of woodland. They are free to foster natural relationships with their rescued friends, forage for food, and explore the land. I could go on and on about Pigs Peace, but I encourage you to click that link and read Judy’s own words.

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The banquet featured a raffle with prizes donated from companies all over town. In fact, $4082.90 was raised to benefit Judy’s nonprofit.

If you’re located in the Portland area and need some help with a holiday party, give the (vegan) caterer a try! They offer a wide array of services, from private event catering to individual meal preparation delivered to your doorstep. Wedding catering services are listed on their site and are very affordable. Josh has an extensive menu, ranging from Tex-Mex to the Far East. And don’t worry, there are plenty of desserts to go around.

:: What You Can Do To Make a Difference This Holiday Season ::

Serve Compassionate Food: The holidays are a perfect opportunity to incorporate cruelty-free food and drink into your traditional festivities! The Kitchn has some winter-specific recipes that I can’t wait to serve to my favorite people. Post Punk Kitchen is always a great resource for holiday recipes, as well. By serving cruelty-free food, you’ll be making a statement for how all beings can enjoy the holidays.

Reach Out to Causes That Need Your Help: Many local organizations are looking for a helping hand this holiday season.

  • Try VolunteerMatch.org to find a cause you might enjoy serving.
  • Search around your neck of the woods for smaller nonprofits who need help, or local companies trying to make their mark in the community.
  • Many local veggie organizations throw community dinners and serve to the homeless. Put Google to work and find some upcoming events near you.
  • If you own a  business, organize a canned (or other) food drive and offer promotions to customers. For example, three canned items might give someone $5 off a haircut.
  • If you live in the Portland area, one of my favorite organizations to promote is Northwest VEG. They always have something up their sleeve and are eager for volunteers.

That’s all, folks! I’ll be updating with some of my favorite things as the holidays start. While you’re waiting, how about you comment and tell me: how do you celebrate for the holidays? and do you have any favorite organizations you like to help during the winter season?