So really, the Hunger Challenge wasn’t a huge challenge. $110 for the week for 4 people, 3 teenagers and me. A lot of people spend less. So we may be a Hunger Challenge family, but we are certainly not hunger challenged. But then, the exercise isn’t really about starving, or being so difficult you are guaranteed to fail (because you have a choice). It is about thinking differently, making different choices, and maybe learning a little bit about other people’s lives, or even your own.

We learned quite a bit this last week, and a few observations follow:

  • First of all, the US has an incredible amount of food. It isn’t the top, but it is certainly one of them. There is plenty of food for everyone to eat, yet an appalling percentage of our people go hungry. Some states, like Mississippi, Arkansas, etc., are at 17% percent hungry, several percentage points above the average for the rest of the world. There is no excuse for that. Hunger is not about food availability, it is about inequality.
  • If we pay attention, we actually eat healthier. That would break down significantly if the dollar amount was any less however. And that $2.00 Hungry Man meal, with “over 1 lb of food!”? Sounds like a great deal until you realize 52% of the calories come from fat, and it has something like 3 days of your sodium allowance.
  • It can be embarrassing or awkward to have to say no to going out to lunch with coworkers, or to coffee with friends. I can explain I am taking part in a hunger challenge for UWKC. Not everyone has that luxury.
  • I personally talked to at least 100 individuals this week about hunger. At work, at the grocery store, and yes, even in line at Panda Express. My ex-wife called on Thursday, and said she had read a column on Komo online about the Hunger Challenge the kids and I were doing. She mentioned something about Panda Express. We laughed when I replied “I think I am that Panda Express guy”. Thanks Martha Kang J
  • It was good for the kids to have to think about tradeoffs. “You mean we can’t have orange juice in the morning?”. They were very involved in the shopping, looking for coupons, cooking (because I am absolutely terrible), and making decisions.
  • I initially thought that some people seem to be more content with negativity about some people’s efforts rather than doing something about it themselves. I thought, “they don’t know me, or what I do to try to change the world, they just see one tiny bit of something”. I also realized that applies to me, and I don’t know what is going on with them either. And that they are probably just as passionate and involved, or even more so.
  • All the time shopping, cooking, talking, made us feel stronger as a family. It was a good week.
  • We got creative with recipes, and figured out we can eat well at home for a couple dollars per person instead of going out. Even if I tend to even burn carrots, my family is filled with good cooks. And we’ll continue to do that, it has resulted in an increased awareness and a┬áchange for us to be sure.

It was only for a week, and while we had to make some tradeoffs and decisions, it was not particularly difficult. My caffeine addiction has passed, maybe I will stay on that path. Or maybe not. But certainly it has raised awareness around hunger, we spent quite a bit of time watching webcasts, looking at Feed America, OxFam, FAO, etc. It is a serious problem, and in much of the world is actually getting a little bit better over the years. But not here, not in the US. The problem is worse than it has ever been, the need is greater, all of us can do something about it regardless of economic status, and I think United Way KC has done a good job highlighting the issue this week. We can all take action, whether it is through a donation, volunteering, writing a letter to a senator, or trying to raise and influence the next generation of caring people. I would love to see the conversation continued, and I have learned a lot from everyone involved.

We’re going to FareStart next week as kind of a recognition dinner, and also to start exploring additional volunteer opportunities for our aspiring cooks. If anyone wants to join, let me know!