Help two organizations fill empty bellies this Christmas
December represents something very meaningful for most of us—and for good reason. In our holiday celebrations, passed-down recipes create lovingly prepared food for family and guests. All is calm; all is bright.
December can also mean assessing of the year past: From devastating hurricanes to mass shootings, sharp emotions have been running in every direction. Many have shared feelings of disheartenment. Our continued abundance, yet seeming inability to carry compassion and freely give to others, is something that is both troubling and alien to the “Give me your tired, your poor,” creed of our nation.
Sticking to a skinny budget and not always witnessing compassion or empathy from others doesn’t diminish our own responsibility to leave our comfort zones and actively see what’s really happening with regards to hunger—an uncomfortable reality in our community.
The Hungry Truth in Utah (From Utahns Against Hunger)
•1 in 10 Utahns, and 1 in 8 Utah children, lives in poverty.
•An impoverished family of four makes about $22,000 a year to cover health care costs, shelter, food and other household expenses.
•Utah is ranked fourth in the nation for the highest rate of very low food security. About 350,000 Utahns risk missing one meal every day.
•More than 134,000 Utahns receive food stamps, and 63,000 eat dinner at a soup kitchen.
•1 in 7 Utah children is at risk of hunger, and nearly 40 percent receive free or reduced school lunch.
So, what is being done in our community to help feed the hungry?
From the Utah Food Bank to outstanding faith-based organizations, many wonderful outreach programs exist to help feed our needy community members. Among these, Food Not Bombs and Even Stevens are two unique groups you can share the love with this Christmas. Both are dedicated to helping end hunger, albeit in very different ways.
Food Not Bombs: Waste Not, Want Not
The Objective of Food Not Bombs (FNB) is to make available food that would otherwise be thrown out in grocery stores due to expiration dates and imperfections (blemishes, bruises, etc.). With the strong belief that the scarcity of food in this world is a myth, Eric Rich, coordinator for the two FNB Salt Lake chapters declares:
“Our country wastes 50 percent of its food, and that amount puts the U.S. in the lead as being the biggest food waster. Ask any seasoned Dumpster diver and they’ll tell you unbelievable stories of the quantities of very edible and delicious food that’s landfill-bound. When FNB chapters pop up around the world, we not only chip away at the alarming mass of food waste, but by distributing free food in neighborhoods, we are providing an opportunity for people to eat healthy food that they otherwise may not have access to.”
FNB has been a part of SLC for 16 years, and many of its patrons are retired, elderly or low income. Something Rich believes sets FNB apart from other food organizations is that it takes a more personal approach to food distribution. “We are self-organizing from the ground up, we learn the names of many of the regular people who come and actually become a part of that community as well,” he says.
One of Rich’s friends was able to save enough money from collecting free food to purchase a van, dramatically improving his quality of life.
“I would like to see a systematic change to prevent waste to begin with, thereby eliminating hunger and supporting local farmers,” Rich continues. “I want to challenge others to take a hard look at the standards for what food should look like in the grocery store, and make buying choices that reflect our looser aesthetic standards that see food as naturally grown, that take on strange shapes, and get beat up in transportation.”
How can we get involved?
Says Rich, “Our chapter has connected with the Blue Sky Institute who supports us, and without their willingness to work with us, many pickup points would not be possible. I’d like to encourage more established non-profit organizations to consider helping Food Not Bombs, and see people get more invested in building community through food.”
Food Not Bombs Pickups:
FNB East: Richmond Park 440 E. 600 South, SLC
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday at 11 a.m.
FNB West: 17th South River Park, 1150 W. 1700 South, SLC
Sunday at 11 a.m.
To volunteer or donate, contact Eric Rich: [email protected]
Even Stevens: Sandwiches for a Cause
Even Stevens is helping to provide an easy way for people to give back to their community—just by buying a sandwich. Each purchase goes toward providing a sandwich for someone in need. While they don’t supply the actual pre-made sandwiches, Even Stevens allocates a monthly budget to their partners to purchase over 100-plus sandwich-making ingredients from Sysco. This allows carefully selected nonprofit entities like the YWCA, Utah Food Bank and Catholic Community Services of Utah to reallocate funds that would have been spent on food toward other programs and services. The founding Even Stevens team gives each organization autonomy to receive exactly what they need, with minimal waste.
“The buy-local movement is an important one as it asks customers to spend their dollars with local shops and services rather than chains that move in,” Co-founder and Cause Director Sara Day explains. “We are excited that we can be that hybrid of local and ‘corporate’ by donating to local non-profits, sourcing locally as much as possible and hiring local musicians and artists to perform in our shops. It feels awesome trying to do something a little different!”
One of Even Stevens’ early success stories was with Catholic Community Services, which serves an average of 200 people every lunch hour. To feed such a crowd, easy hot meals like casseroles are preferred. “They let me know that when they made a tuna casserole using tuna fish ordered from our program, it normally would have taken them a year to save up that much tuna,” Day says.
After Even Stevens reached a huge milestone—hitting 1 million sandwich donations—Catholic Community Services of Utah responded enthusiastically:
“The partnership between us and Even Stevens has been invaluable in our fight against hunger in Utah. Between our St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall in Salt Lake and our Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank in northern Utah, Even Stevens has donated thousands of sandwiches so that Utah’s most vulnerable do not go hungry. We are proud to work with so many incredible organizations dedicated to helping those in need and congratulate Even Stevens on reaching 1 million donated sandwiches.”
The YWCA has also benefited from the sandwich shop’s generosity. “Even Stevens contributions have broadened the menu for women and children at the YWCA,” Director of Food Services Laura Dalton says. “They get to taste foods that they never would have had a chance to try before; things like different kinds of cheeses and deli meats (beyond baloney). It’s been great to see a company succeed that’s not just out to make money—they make a difference.”
One donated and redistributed food item at a time, one sandwich at a time, we can most definitely feed those who hunger. We can all sleep better at night by taking action and giving back. However you choose to celebrate this December, let’s challenge ourselves to take a closer look at what needs to be done in our community. May all bellies be full this Christmas.