FedEx O&SS Hunger Challenge
We’ve all done this hundreds or thousands of times: You are kind of hungry. You want something but are not sure just what. You wander into the kitchen and throw open the pantry or refrigerator door and stand there scratching your head. You stare at opened cereal boxes, some chips, a half-eaten bag of cookies, rice, and the usual cans of vegetables, tuna and Chef Boyardee. You start to feel a little frustrated, maybe a little angry because there just “isn’t anything to eat!”
But what if there really wasn’t anything to eat?
Each day, thousands of Mid-South children are left staring at empty pantries and refrigerators. They have little to no food at home, especially nutritious food choices for their growing bodies. The good news is that the majority of children who go to school receive a healthy breakfast and lunch each day. This can be a lifeline for at risk children. But what about the weekend when school meals are not available? It can be a dismal time for many children.
With a passion for feeding the hungry, the Mid-South Food Bank took on the challenge and embraced the Food for Kids Backpack Program, providing 2520 weekend meals for at risk children. Each child who is at risk for going hungry is given a backpack filled with nutritious food to take home on the weekends. The FedEx O&SS team, in partnership with the Mid South Foodbank, challenged themselves to experience what it would be like to take home one of these backpacks and have that as their only food for the weekend. What were the results?
Our team learned a number of valuable lessons through this experience. One primary theme that surfaced was the lack of options and choices. Most of us have a myriad of food choices and options every day. We can add this or that or we may prefer one brand over another. Generally, we are able to select from many options. We all felt that we had an “empowered food eating life” and are “surrounded by the luxury of choice”. This is not the experience for many of our Mid-South children.
We also realized that while this was a “choice” we all made for one weekend. It was in no way equal to experiencing this every day. The food provided was certainly nutritious, but many indicated that it was bland and definitely not what they were used to. Often, hungry children have to eat their food cold due a lack of functioning appliances and share what food they bring home for the weekends with other family members. Our overall impression is that many at risk for hunger children are “survivors” and may not be “thrivers”.
So what did the FedEx O&SS team take away from this experience? I believe that each of us came away with a profound sense of gratitude for the many choices and opportunities we have every day. You can’t come away from an experience like this without feeling heartbroken that in this land of such bounty, there are children who have so little that a tiny backpack filled with some basic items like a juice box, peanut butter, cereal and a can of tuna can mean so much. We all shared a sense of shame at the amount of food that goes to waste that could potentially help so many know what it is like to have a full belly. I believe that this experience ignited a passion within our team to give more, do more and make a meaningful connection with others who may be struggling.
The Hunger Challenge raised over $640 for the Foodbank that will provide a weekend of food for 320 children! The experience has also inspired our team to spend time serving at the Foodbank throughout the year during our off-site service activity.