“As I was preparing the beautiful, fresh, local, food, I was also thinking about the fact that the $120 for that dinner would have fed 480 people in the Stop Hunger Now program.”
Packing 50,000 Meals
There are days in my life when two conflicting worlds come crashing together. Love and hate. Conflict and peace. Wellness and illness. Scarcity and abundance. This was one of those days.
I recently participated in an event called Stop Hunger Now (Now called Rise Against Hunger). On this day, about 120 volunteers from my church, ranging in age from five to eighty five gathered to pack 50,000 meals. In the weeks prior to this morning, we had collected money. $12,500. Every dollar made four meals, and there were four meals in each bag that we packed.
The entire event fascinated me. Gathered around one of many “stations,’ (a station was a table with bins of the ingredients, a funnel, plastic bags, and plastic boxes) I was one of five people charged with filling a plastic bag with a packet of flavors/vitamins, one cup of soy protein, half a cup of dehydrated vegetables, and a cup of rice. Once filled, the bags were taken to a weigh station, sealed with a heat sealer, then packed in plastic boxes and finally loaded in larger containers. Our meals would be taken to Honduras, to a farm where orphaned children receive care. Nutritious food was scarce in this location. The meals, cooked in a pot with just water, provided quality protein as well as life-giving minerals and vitamins. We were given an opportunity to sample the one-pot meal before we left. It was surprisingly tasty.
My station enjoyed getting to know each other a bit, telling stories and jokes, razzing each other if we made a mess or lost our rhythm. It was fun and good work, community building and energizing. Every time we reached 1,000 meals, a gong would be hit and everyone would cheer. Up-beat music played in the background and we accomplished 50,000 meals in just under three hours. Add unloading the truck, setting up and breaking down to do it all in 5 hours. 50,000 meals. 5 hours. Wow.
I went home about 1pm and began working on the dinner party I was hosting that evening. The day before I had visited four different stores trying to find the right tomatoes. I was seeking organic, heirloom tomatoes for a dish I was making. The tomato season hasn’t been good here in South Carolina and I was as frustrated as the store proprietors. I settled for a few good tomatoes, bought fresh fish, other local vegetables, many bottles of wine, artisan bread, and my favorite new cookie. I was home now, making dinner for six for about $120.
Dinner would be wonderful. Company that night would be dear friends, people with whom we share intimate conversation as well as many values and ideals. These dinner gatherings nurture our friendship and our commitment to each other. They are important and make a difference in our lives. But as I was preparing the beautiful, fresh, local, food, I was also thinking about the fact that the $120 for that dinner would have fed 480 people in the Stop Hunger Now program.
I started wondering about creative ways to turn my passion for hospitality and entertaining into something that went even further than creating intimate community. What if I tried to feed six people beautifully for $80 and gave the other $40 to Stop Hunger Now? What if for every $100 I spent on feeding others in my home I gave an equal amount to SHN? Homemade spaghetti and meatballs, wonderful soups and stews, and simpler meals might be equally satisfying as long as the company is loving and good. How do I integrate my own abundance with the scarcity in the world? How do I take my own vocation, that of hospitality and hearth making, and have a wider circle of influence?
I went to bed that evening full in so many ways. Blessed to have been able to give and receive. Full from love and friendship. Satiated with delicious food and wine. And stirring with creative ideas about how my own life can continue to change to help make a difference in the world.
Amy Sander Montanez, D.Min., has been a licensed professional counselor, licensed marriage & family therapist and spiritual director for over twenty years. She blogs weekly at Amy Sander Montanez.