“How do we build sub-economic communities that thrive in the context of a larger economic community that is failing?”
I first began wrestling with this question four years ago with no idea where the answer would lead me and how many people would ultimately be served. It’s like putting together a puzzle without the box cover. Yet, one-by-one, people are being linked across the country in a movement of generosity to help end child hunger in America.
It all began after a meal packaging event where 450 volunteers gathered in Sterling, Virginia, to pack 40,000 meals for children in Haiti. This first event took place in partnership with an international humanitarian relief organization. Following the event, I celebrated the accomplishment with a friend. After applauding our success, he asked, “So what are you going to do to feed children in our community who are going hungry?” This question bugged me. I couldn’t get it off my mind. And I knew the answer would help bring clarity to my much larger question of how to create sub-economic communities that thrive in context of a larger one that is failing.
A year later, we launched our first Generosity::Feeds event, where 600 people from Northern Virginia assembled at a local high school to package 40,000 meals for children in our community. The food was donated to local schools to distribute to children in need. Within weeks, people around the country were contacting us to find out how to bring Generosity::Feeds to their communities.
Recently, we held an event in Bluefield, West Virginia, in which 100 percent of the children are on the free and reduced lunch program. Most of these children live with food insecurity. This means, outside of school hours, they don’t know when they are going to eat or how they are going to get the food. A church in Bluefield envisioned feeding these children, and we partnered with the church to mobilize the community at large to address the issue. When the media got wind of what this small church was doing to serve the community, they provided free advertising. On the day of the event, 10,000 meals were packaged and plans made to run another event. Many of the children and families who helped pack these meals will receive them in the coming months as a healthy solution to their food insecurity.
Generosity::Feeds is now a year old. In this time, a core leadership team has been assembled to facilitate meal packaging events across America. We have also partnered with Jason Strickland and ITL Productions out of Hollywood to bring in celebrity endorsements. In summer 2013, ITL Productions is hosting a Celebrity Generosity::Feeds event in Los Angeles. It will involve a red-carpet photo shoot for the celebrities as they come and work side by side with the community to package 100,000 meals to help feed children in L.A. who live with food insecurity. We are now in the process of identifying local and national sponsors for this growing movement.
When people hear that 10,000 or more meals are packaged in a single hour, they often ask, “how is that possible?” It is actually quite simple.
Prior to an event, we order ingredients in bulk for the meal to be packed. For our Garden Vegetable Soup, for example, we order powdered garlic, powdered chicken broth, dehydrated soup blend, and noodles. Each ingredient is placed in a bin around a funnel. A person stands at each bin with the correct size measuring scoop and pours a leveled scoop of their ingredient through a funnel into a food bag. The bag is then heat sealed and boxed for distribution. Our meals are all-natural and contain no preservatives. This enables us to provide children with a delicious and healthy solution to food insecurity.
This is just the beginning of the story. We understand that charity is only as good as our ability to sustain the recipients’ dignity. In the coming year, by setting up partnerships with established companies and new entrepreneurial businesses, we are working to help families find transitional employment to enter back into sustainable lifestyles.
An incredible picture is forming as people find their place in a growing movement of generosity to help end child hunger and create sustainable futures for families across America. These are just a couple pieces necessary in creating economic communities that thrive through generosity.
I would like to tell you that my wife, children, and I are an ordinary, middle-class family. But apart from a middle-class income, very little is ordinary. Early on in our marriage, we decided to live with margin in our finances, time, relationships, and emotions. This has enabled us to live extraordinary lives. By living below our means, we expand our capacity for generosity. This lifestyle has provided an incredible incubator for developing our family’s relationships, generosity, and faith in God. These core values now overflow into the life of our community and nation. We hope it will have a further ripple effect around the globe.
What do you work for beyond putting food on the table? How can you make 2013 a better place for all of us?
Note: If you would like to bring Generosity::Feeds to your community or have Ron speak to your organization, contact him at Ron@generosityfeeds.org.