Food and hope go together.
That perspective dawned on me last weekend while speaking at a Children’s Hunger Fund charitable dinner at the Reagan Library. Based on my personal experience and what I’ve observed in my travels, I’d say this insight is especially true for children. Hunger has a way of devouring their hope and robbing their dreams. Conversely, even in the wake of a natural disaster, if there’s food on the table there’s hope that tomorrow might just be better.
No food, no hope. It’s a downward spiral. Allow me a personal example.
After my parents divorced, my mother was left with the Herculean task of raising five children as a single parent. We were living in a modest rented home in Alhambra on Fifth Street. My mom did her best to provide, working two and three jobs just to put food on the table. In spite of her efforts there were days when we kids had nothing to eat. I remember watching giant cockroaches scampering across the kitchen floor. To me, they appeared to have done a better job finding food than we did. On many nights I’d go to bed hungry. I wondered why my friends had plenty to eat while my family struggled.
Lying in the darkness, hopelessness covered me like a shroud. Sometimes at breakfast when we did have a few provisions, we still had to improvise. With no milk, for instance, we’d mix Kool-Aid packs with water to pour over our cereal at breakfast. Anything to stop the ravenous feeling within and the discouragement it bred.
Even so, I tasted hunger in a small way.
My experience pales by comparison to the malnutrition children are experiencing right now in cities where disaster has struck, such as Indonesia and Peru, or the places plagued by poverty like Haiti and Guatemala. It staggers me to learn that 153 million children worldwide—under age 5—are malnourished; that 13 million children go to bed hungry here in the U.S. and, tragically, 6 million children around the world will die this year due to hunger-related causes.
Which is why I appreciate the work of Children’s Hunger Fund (CHF). If you’re unfamiliar with CHF, they’re one of the most efficient providers of food to hungry children worldwide. Forbes annual report on America’s most efficient charities gave them a 100% efficiency rating; 99-cents of every dollar they receive goes directly to caring for children in need.
Their plan is simple. They circulate empty cardboard boxes (Food Paks®) that hold 20lbs of food (along with a suggested list of nutritious food items) to churches and community groups. They, in turn, fill the boxes. Once filled, CHF distributes these boxes of food and hope directly to those in need. CHF partners with churches to supply physical and spiritual sustenance. CHF’s strategy is to make the local church the hub for food distribution. This fosters a long-term relationship between the church and those in need.
By the way, at the CHF fund-raiser last Saturday, actress Candace Cameron Bure—sister of Curt Cameron, probably best known for her role as “DJ” on ABC TV’s sitcom Full House—was on hand to present the Children’s Champion Award.
I’m humbled to be the recipient of that honor for our work at Focus on the Family with orphans. I’m also grateful for all that CHF does to bring food and the hope of Jesus to children who might otherwise have neither.