by Iris Valanti, Director of Communications _ Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
One of the most wonderful things about working for the Food Bank and working toward ending hunger in our region is the special people you meet in the course of the work. These kinds of people don’t wonder IF hunger can be ended, or how such an ideal might be achieved, they just go about doing it, in whatever way they can. Their efforts aren’t “better” than anybody else’s, they just show a little extra imagination, and seem to share some kind of “hey, I can do that!” DNA. Without fanfare or permission, and more often than not without pay, they take a look at the situation and come up with an idea. Then they just do it.
So the next time you are wondering “What can I do to help end hunger?”, let imagination, and perhaps the examples that follow, inspire you.
The big SOUP party is a yearly excuse for the Neely family to call up their friends, break bread, and share some big SOUP for an evening. It’s a way to keep in touch, have some fun, eat a lot of great food, and celebrate SOUP as the most perfect of culinary inventions. And it has become a way to help fight hunger.
The event starts at 6:00 pm and soup is served late into the night. Friends are welcome at any time, and are asked to bring only a bowl, a spoon, and a friend. There is a large soup bowl on the main table to collect cash and checks for the Food Bank.
The event is enhanced by a great website, soup recipes, and a sense of fun. Awards are given for the biggest spoon used, most original bowl, and furthest distance traveled. The Big Soup Party, started in 1993, has seen the Neely children grow up. And it’s raised around $10,000 for the Food Bank. And next year’s big Soup Party is already scheduled: December 4, 2010.
Meanwhile, another family’s tradition may be just beginning. Last summer the Weida family of Baldwin received a letter from the Food Bank about children who usually get school breakfast and lunch, but who might face hunger over the summer. Nathalie, age 10, wanted to do something about it. So she began “Keys to a Change.” She decorated old keys, and used them as the focus pieces of beaded jewelry, which she sells, and then donates the money to the Food Bank. To boost her efforts she had her friends over to a “Keys for a Change” party, where everyone could make a beaded piece if they brought nonperishable items for the Food Bank. She collected about 100 pounds of food, and some $450.
Then she and her family brought what she had collected to the Food Bank to see how it works. They saw volunteers sorting food drive food, and learned how the Food Bank serves 100,000 people each month, and distributes almost 2 million pounds of food every month, which takes a lot of money. They saw the warehouse machinery, people working, the receiving dock and the fleet of trucks that pick up and deliver food. Now Nathalie can’t wait until she turns 12 and is old enough to volunteer at the warehouse. Meanwhile, the Weida’s plan to come to Empty Bowls.
Taking action to help your community is what makes the world a better place to live for everybody. The Neely and Weida families have found unique and wonderful ways to enrich their own lives while they help feed their neighbors. Thankfully, the Food Bank meets special people like them every day.