Back to Basics

Having just relaunched Food Shelf Friday, I thought it would be a good idea to go back to basics and talk about why I blog about hunger and what a Food Shelf Friday even is.

I have to confess, I never thought I would have a blog. When blogging first took off, I thought bloggers were self-absorbed narcissists who basically kept a diary that was published for all the world to see. My life was not (and is not) that exciting. I didn’t read blogs, and I never considered writing one.

As time went on, blogging became less about “what I did today” and more about specific topics. I found a blogger who wrote about vintage fashion, and her work was useful to me as an historian. I followed a blogger who taught couponing and provided great resources. As I came to understand blogging, I grew to appreciate it, but I still didn’t see myself as someone with something to contribute.

One day I was asked a simple question about what the local food shelf/food bank needs. I had some experience from volunteer projects I’d done, so I was able to answer. This spawned another question and another, and I realized that I had some level of expertise that I wasn’t even aware of. When I got home that night I kept thinking that there should be a place that average people can go to find resources. Somewhere that could answer these questions so we can truly, effectively help others. That’s when it dawned on me that a blog could be that place. I dug around online and didn’t find anything like I was imagining, so I started brainstorming names.

My church was in the middle of an initiative called Hope for Dinner at that time, and I loved the idea that by eating rice and beans each night we were sharing in a common experience while raising money to help those in need. I decided that my family could do something similar, and the concept of a Food Shelf Friday was born.

Every Friday (or whatever day of the week works for you), participating families exchange their usual dinner for the kind of simple meal people get when they visit a food shelf.  At the same time, they purchase the identical ingredients to donate.  By simplifying our dinner we can provide dinner for another family without incurring any additional cost while learning to appreciate the challenges of food insecurity.

FSF meals include:
Tuna Helper and veggies (1 box Tuna Helper, 2 cans of Tuna, two cans of veggies)
Pancakes and fruit (1 box of pancake mix, 1 container of syrup, 1-2 cans of fruit)
Spaghetti and veggies (1 package of dry pasta, 1 can or jar of pasta sauce, 1-2 cans of veggies)
Soup (canned or dry soup, stew, or chili, and a shelf stable bread product like muffin or cornbread mix)
Rice & Beans (1 lb bag of rice, canned or dry beans, cans of additional canned veggie ingredients)

Here in Minnesota our local food banks are called food shelves. I didn’t know this was a local-ism until I set up my site and started researching. Everything I found when searching “food shelf” came up local, but “food bank” came up with information from all over the country. I decided to own it and stick with Food Shelf Friday.

Researching fast enough to write a weekly blog post is the hardest part of this. Since I started Food Shelf Friday in 2014 I’ve written a thesis and finished my master’s degree in history, launched a kid into college/adulthood, and worked. I currently work two jobs and commute 40+ miles each way, so it’s not like I have a lot of spare time on my hands!

My favorite part is meeting people who are also passionate about doing real good and helping the world’s hungry. My personal Facebook newsfeed has become very inspiring as I’ve found different people and organizations to follow!

Food Shelf Friday is on Facebook, Twitter account (@foodshelffriday), and Pinterest. That’s where I share a lot of what others are doing, and things I find inspiring. FSF has an Instagram as well (@foodshelffriday), but that’s something I’m just starting to build.

If making a REAL difference in the world while affirming dignity and hope in others is something you care about, come along on this journey. Try Food Shelf Friday dinners with your family. Follow FSF on social media. And share with me (blog comment or Facebook DM work best) questions you have, book/documentary suggestions, and things you’d like to see me dig into. I always appreciate the suggestions!

January Challenge: One Thousand Things

Last week I told you about my word for 2020 – Challenge

This week I’m sharing my January challenge with you. I call it ‘One Thousand Things’ and just like the name implies, I’m getting rid of one thousand things. When I told my son about it, he asked if I even own one thousand things. I assured him that I have that and more – LOTS more! We all have a lot more stuff than we think…

So here are the rules:

  • Regular garbage like packaging, used tissues, junk mail, and food waste don’t count. That’s just garbage. But things that need to (finally…) be sorted or which could be kept do count. So expired medications, leftover candy, or the frozen bananas I’m holding onto for the magical “someday” when I’m going to make banana bread – those things count.
  • Things which don’t get separated, like shoes, socks, or earrings, count as one item. Likewise, the pills in a bottle are not counted out – a bottle of expired ibuprofen is one item. Things that are separate items are counted individually, so five old magazines is five items.
  • Items are sold, tossed, or donated. The goal of decluttering is not to fill up the landfill, nor is it to inundate Goodwill with things that should be trash. The goal is a thoughtful sort, and that means that things with value are sold, things with life are donated, and things that are beyond help are recycled or tossed.

To be brutally honest, a thousand is a huge number. And here on day three, I’ve only gotten rid of three things. I don’t know if I’ll hit a thousand, but that’s what makes it a challenge! I’ll let you know on Facebook how it’s going.

My other goals for 2020 include:

  • I will purchase for myself ONLY clothing, shoes, and accessories which were produced using fair trade labor, or which were bought second-hand. I’ve done this before, and I made it deep into the year before I needed something I couldn’t find fair trade. The real key to this goal is remembering that I really don’t NEED more clothes, shoes, or accessories. But when I’d really LIKE to have something new, it’s fun to look for fair trade options or shop thrift bargains. As long as I don’t need undergarments, a swimming suit, or another pair of running shoes, I can do this!
  • I aim to read 100 books per year. I’ve never gotten there, but it’s my goal again in 2020.
  • I will make three microfinance loans through Kiva. My little lending profile is almost at the point where payments on outstanding loans are fronting the next loan (sometimes I have to supplement just a little to get there). I started doing this a few years ago by making two loans a year with my birthday and Christmas money. Last year I added a third loan in August because the returns allowed it. I plan to keep that up until managing my loans becomes a monthly thing. I really love looking at all the projects and supporting men and women around the world who just need a small loan at a low rate to increase their capabilities.

Don’t forget to follow @FoodShelfFriday on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. There’s lots to see and lots of ways to get inspired! Happy new year!

One Word 2020

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the one word resolution. It’s a trend that’s been around for a while now, and something I’ve even blogged about before. The basic idea is that instead of making a list of resolutions you’ll abandon, you just pick one word and make it your focus for the year. I’ve been doing this for a few years now – some more successfully than others. I start thinking about it in November or December. I pray for God to lead me to the right word. I’m still waiting for something nice like peace or joy, but God knows this Enneagram one too well. Past words I’ve focused on include honor, warrior, and in 2019, yes.

This year I find myself inspired by the word challenge. I might have preferred something like rest or relax, but I doubt those words would have inspired the kind of changes I need in my life. Don’t get me wrong, some of us need to learn to rest or to relax, but that’s just not where I’m at right now, and the God who directs my path knows that.

I’m getting a head start on this year’s word. I’ve started a Pinterest board on the topic, and I’m collecting challenges that other people have put out there. I have exercise/fitness challenges, eating challenges, reading challenges, housekeeping challenges, and much more. They range from week-long to month-long challenges. Some look like they’ll be fun, while others look like they’ll be more, well, challenging. I’ll link it to the Food Shelf Friday Pinterest board so you can see what is inspiring my year, and maybe find a challenge or two that motivates you.

The first challenge I’m taking on in 2020 is my month-long January challenge. I’m calling it “A Thousand Things,” and I’ll tell you more about that next week. Most of my challenges you’ll never hear about, but when I hit something like A Thousand Things which connect to Food Shelf Friday’s mission, I’ll share them here on the blog or the FSF Facebook page. Others I’ll just keep to myself or share with my accountability groups. I doubt you care how long I can hold a plank or if I’ve managed to hula hoop successfully (a skill I have never managed to master, no matter how hard I try!).

Whatever your resolutions, be they one-word, a whole list, or none at all, I hope you learn and grow in 2020. I pray that your families are blessed and healthy, and that this year is a good one for you. Thank you also for coming along on this journey with me. I love researching and writing, and I hope that I manage to say something that is meaningful and helpful to you this year.

Happy New Year!

You Are That Man, And So Am I

“There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.” (2 Samuel 12:1-9 – emphasis added)

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Recently my pastor has been preaching on the stories in the genealogy of Jesus, from Matthew chapter 1. Last week he was talking about King David and Bathsheba. The Israelites were at war with the Ammonites when King David (who probably should have been with his troops at the time…) wandered onto his rooftop and caught sight of a woman bathing on another roof. Lust, abuse of power, adultery, and an unplanned pregnancy followed. Then, to cover his tracks, David brought the woman’s husband home from war, hoping they could pass off the pregnancy as his own child. But the husband, Uriah, refused to sleep with his wife while he was home, so David arranged to have him killed in battle, and took Bathsheba as his own.

This is where the prophet Nathan comes into the story. The quoted text above is how Nathan approached David to confront him about his sins. The story got to David. He was ready to strike at the wealthy man who would steal a beloved lamb out of laziness and greed. Then Nathan dropped the bomb. “You are the man,” he told David. David had everything. He was the king. He had wealth, fame, and military success (does the name Goliath ring any bells?). He had at least two other wives, too.

So what does David and Bathsheba’s story have to do with hunger, poverty, and fair trade? The answer is in Nathan’s words. “You are that man!”

Do you have a place to live? According to a Yale study, 150 million people around the world are homeless, and as many as 1.8 billion lack adequate housing.
Do you have food to eat? According to the UN World Food Programme, 795 million people in the world, about 1 in 9, do not have enough to eat.
Do you have access to clean water? About 4 billion people, nearly two-thirds of the world population, experience severe water scarcity at least part of the year.
Do your children have a chance to grow and learn, or are they faced into (often unsafe) work as children? According to Compassion, 152 million children worldwide are victims of child labor, and nearly half of them are age 11 or younger. About half of employed children work in hazardous conditions. Most of them will never receive an education beyond primary school, and subsequently they will struggle with low-paying jobs all their lives.

Do you ever find yourself saying, “I really need (insert something you do not actually need)?
Do you ever throw things out just because you don’t like them anymore?

Do you ever throw away food or waste water?

Then you are that man. And so am I.

Feeling bad about being fortunate doesn’t help anyone. I’m not pointing this out to make you feel guilty. I’m saying this to remind us to think about your spending. Every dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in. Buy fair trade when possible, or second-hand. Research companies that don’t use child labor. Put some effort into creating less waste. Think like the old World War Two era slogan: Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without.

You don’t have to be perfect, just strive to do the next right thing.

Ethical Gifts for Last-Minute Shoppers

I feel like a broken record repeating this over and over, but it’s simply the truth: the only meaningful and permanent solution to poverty and hunger is the opportunity for fair and meaningful work. If workers are paid a fair living wage, products will cost what they should (which is more than we’re used to paying for the kind of fast-fashion that uses child labor and unsafe conditions). If products cost what they should, we’ll do less impulse buying and be less wasteful, which is better for the environment. It would also make us more particular about quality, and more likely to maintain the things we have rather than throwing them out and replacing them.

So let’s say that you’ve committed to do your part and buy things that were created by workers in safe conditions who were paid a fair wage. *Taps microphone* Um, ladies and gentlemen? We’re down to just ten shopping days before Christmas…

A lot of ethical brands are online, and unless we’re talking about Amazon, which owns the American package delivery industry, you might not be able to get online orders in time for Christmas. So what is the last-minute ethical shopper to do?

  • Gift Cards – the obvious first idea is gift cards. They’re probably the most popular gift to give over the holiday season, and many retailers let you buy them online, some even offering e-delivery.
  • Chocolate and Coffee – Chocolate and coffee are products that make great gifts and which are widely available. Even your local grocery store probably has Endangered SpeciesEndangered Species chocolate and a number of fair trade coffee brands. Look for the fair trade logo on the packaging. Similarly, if your favorite local coffee shop uses fair trade beans (and Rainforest Alliance certification DOES include fair trade in their requirements!), a gift card to their location is another great option.
  • Search up a brick and mortar store near you – There are physical shops that specialize in fair trade merchandise. Search the internet, or check out this list.
  • Buy American – Items made in the United States have to adhere to American labor laws, so those products are made by employees who meet American safety, child labor, and minimum wage standards. Whether those things are enough is a different debate, but at least you know your American-made products weren’t created by children in a sweatshop.
  • Buy Homemade – Your friend who knits, the lady who sells jewelry at the craft fair, and your neighbor who makes her own soap are all retailers who set their own prices and pay themselves what they think is a fair wage for their materials and time. Supporting hand crafters and local small businesses keeps money in the community and helps them build their business. Don’t forget to leave reviews and comments on social media, too.
  • Don’t throw out the big box – There are fair trade options at big box retailers. Amazon can ship Prime products up to the last minute, and they do carry fair trade items. Just search the site for “fair trade” and be sure you check estimated delivery dates.

Wishing you the best of luck on your last-minute shopping. Merry Christmas!