Someone recently asked me about the 6th annual Fight Hunger. Spark Change. campaign that we just kicked off with our wonderful partners – Walmart, Sam’s Club and Feeding America – and what it meant for the St. Louis Area Foodbank. The data side of my brain immediately went to the facts: that for every dollar donated to the St. Louis Area Foodbank, we can provide 4 meals to our neighbors in need; that last year, thanks to the generosity of the thousands of shoppers that purchased designated products or made donations at the register between April and mid-May, we were able to provide 1 MILLION MEALS to hungry children, seniors, families and veterans here in the bi-state region; that every dollar counts when we work together to really move the needle in the fight against hunger. And that’s good news because no one should be going to bed hungry in our region – or in any county across the United States of America.
Then the strategic side of my brain kicked in, raising big questions and even bigger stakes for the future of our work. How can we do more? How can we tell the story of what these dollars mean through the experiences of those receiving this nutritious food? How can we educate our region to better understand that the faces of hunger are not hidden, but rather, hiding in plain sight – sometimes unsure of where to turn, often embarrassed by the need to ask for support and at times afraid of what others may think or say?
So, we are embarking on a new journey – to help share the faces and stories of hunger in OUR community; to personalize the problem of hunger locally; to ensure we are educating, dispelling misconceptions and always treating everyone with dignity and respect. From the experiences of those who have lived with and through hunger to the expertise of the unsung heroes fighting hunger every day – teachers, school nurses, grocery store cashiers and all of those working in their communities to make someone’s tomorrow a little brighter than their today – we are hoping to create a spark, right here in the bi-state region.
I would like to share our first video featuring four of our neighbors – Yvonne, Nicole, Edith and Melvin.
None of them ever expected to have to ask for help. They all work hard and have for their entire lives – even when balancing the demands of life and work meant making difficult choices or, as in Melvin and Yvonne’s case, making serious sacrifices for our country through service in the United States Armed Forces. However, something changed unexpectedly and led them to us. I am honored and humbled that we were there when they needed us most, despite never believing they would need us at all.
My hope is that this short, 3-minute video and the stories it shares will SPARK something inside everyone who views it. Together we can write a new story by improving lives and strengthening our communities, one person at a time. Whether it is hosting a food drive, donating to the St. Louis Area Foodbank, shopping at Walmart or Sam’s Club and buying selected items between now and May 20th, volunteering with us OR your local pantry, or simply checking on a neighbor, we all have an important role to play.
I firmly believe in the power of people who choose to come together to create meaningful and lasting change. I have seen it too many times to NOT believe that with the right energy – the right “spark” – that anything is possible. I believe that when we listen, when we are made aware, and when we open our hearts and truly care about one another, we are at our best as a community, as a Nation. It is our humble honor to serve and support the bi-state region here at the St. Louis Area Foodbank. We are so grateful to all those who have supported us in the past, and we look forward to making new friends and forging new partnerships to help us fight hunger and make a difference in the places we call home. Because while this video highlights four of our neighbors who now have hope because of the food we were able to provide, the reality is that there are over 450,000 others right here in our region whose stories have yet to be shared.
Thank you for watching, sharing and reflecting on these stories. I hope that today will be the day that you find YOUR spark and remember that, while hunger can affect anyone, ANYONE can affect hunger. And it only takes a spark…