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Gifts in Action: An Update from The Lunchbox Fund

The Lunchbox Fund

“This is what you did together: you all have literally turned the love of food into real food. And that will change these children’s lives.”

I’m writing with an exciting and heartwarming update from The Lunchbox Fund! Since raising $5,000 in February during our Feed South Africa campaign, they’ve already implemented a new program to support a group of children at an early development childhood center (ECDC) in Franschoek Valley, outside Cape Town.

ECDCs play a very important role in South Africa, especially in the informal settlements. Very often women will not have the money to cover childcare while they work, and will leave that child with someone who might put them at risk, be careless, inexperienced, young or just unable to provide the child with proper care. Seeing this, women in the townships have created small day care centers, often rooms in the back yards of their small homes or shacks, and take the children in for a nominal fee, offering basic school lessons, safety, education, and food during the day.

A recent survey of primary schoolchildren from a rural area in KwaZulu-Natal Province, revealed a great number of children with persistent micronutrient deficiencies including inadequate vitamin A status (40%) anemia (28%), and iodine deficiency (97%). By sourcing foods from a manufacturer and wholesale provider of low-cost, long life, nutritionally fortified, culturally appropriate foods, The Lunchbox Fund has been able to address the micronutrient deficiencies and provide a nutritionally balanced meal. It also removes the burden of providing food from the ECDC, allowing them to invest their resources in books, toys, kitchen equipment, and aides. The daily meal provided encourages parents to leave their children to be cared for and educated, rather than wandering the streets.

Beginning on March 1, The Lunchbox Fund began providing meals to an additional 208 children at ECDC’s in the Franschoek Valley, a food-producing region that attracts migrant workers, and where the need for nutritional support of children is huge. Our $5,000 has been allocated to The Franschoek Early Childhood Development Program, and will be providing 20,000 meals over the next year to approximately 75-100 children. How amazing!

Last week, I also received a personal email from Topaz Page-Green, The Lunchbox Fund’s founder.

“On behalf of The Lunchbox Fund we really want to Thank You for your incredible effort. We are so proud and grateful to be the recipient of your generous and energetic initiative.  It is truly not often that people follow through with what they set out to do - So what you have created stands out, successfully, a cut above and beyond the rest.

Thank You Thank You Thank You. 20,000 meals goes a long way.”

I hope you all feel incredibly inspired by what we’ve accomplished together. All of your posts, tweets, Facebook messages, and donations have made a real, tangible impact in the lives of children in South Africa whose lives will never be the same.

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Food Bloggers Against Hunger - The Results!

Food Bloggers Against Hunger Results from Nicole Gulotta on Vimeo.

The results are in!

On April 8th, food bloggers joined forces to help make a difference in the food system and support Share Our Strength and the new documentary A Place at the Table. Today, the ripple effect of this event is still making its way across the nation. (If you missed it, check out the event on Storify!) There are a series of impressive numbers, like almost 17,000 pins on Pinterest, and 2,400 letters submitted to Congress, but the real strength lies in the proof that our collective voice is more powerful than anything we could accomplish alone.

Tom Colicchio shared Anne Coleman's post when he met with 40 members of Congress on April 9th. Representative Jim McGovern tweeted about the work we were doing. The New York Times, Huffington Post, and Civil Eats took notice. And when policies begin to change (and they will), over the coming months, and this issue continues to remain in the spotlight, you will know that you had something to do with it. A big something.

Representatives like John Matheson (UT) have responded to your letters: "While I firmly believe that we all need to make tough decisions and share in the sacrifice to reduce our federal deficit, I do not support balancing the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens."

Many of you have expressed your gratitude for my organizing this event, for giving you a platform to discuss these issues. But I have to extend the same gratitude back to you, because none of this would have been possible without you. Had I posted about this on my own blog, it would have made almost no difference. But the power of 250 bloggers behind this cause made for an incredible day.

Here are some highlights from your blog posts:

"Today, food bloggers across the country are writing about food insecurity. This is not to be confused with foodie insecurity, the worry that your salted caramel bacon doughnut on a stick isn’t photogenic enough for your Pinterest followers."  -Plant & Plate

"Far too many people understand what true hunger is, to not have enough to eat, to feel the twisting agony of real hunger as they lay in the dark night; to open cupboards, the refrigerator and see nothing for sustenance or thirst."   -Kate in the Kitchen

"I am angry that we are a nation of great wealth, and people are going hungry.  I am angry that those people are not given the appropriate tools to eat a nutritious diet.  I am angry that obesity and hunger are relatives.  But, I am also inspired.  I am inspired by people who give a damn!" -Corbin in the Dell

"I feel sickened to my core when I think what it must be like for moms who have to watch their children suffer the pangs of hunger, who have to tell their kids that she’s sorry but there’s just not anything for breakfast today." -Em-i-lis

"The real tragedy of food allergies and food insecurity is that families may take risks with their children's well being." -The Allergic Kid

Congratulations to everyone who participated and supported this event! Special thanks to Feastie and Share Our Strength for providing analytics.


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What would you do if you were hungry?

If you're browsing through your RSS feed or checking your Twitter stream this morning, you might notice a common theme. Today, 200 food bloggers are donating their posts to raise awareness about the issue of hunger in America. And we're planning to make some noise.

This event began last August, when I had the opportunity attend an early screening of A Place at the Table through a local professional network. This was well before Participant Media had designed an action center, but I walked away knowing that this would be a wonderful partnership with The Giving Table. (If you haven't had a chance to see the film yet, I encourage you to do so. If it's not playing in your town, you can also watch it on demand on iTunes and Amazon.)

In preparing for this event during the past few weeks, I've been humbled by the reception in the food blog community, and proud of what we've set out to accomplish together. This event (and this website, really) began because I believe I'm not the only one who cares about these issues. All my feelings have been affirmed as I've watched my inbox fill with RSVPs from fellow bloggers who are standing with us today.

We're all joining together for one reason: to make a difference in our food system. Millions are hungry, and as many as 50 million people are food insecure and don't know where their next meal is coming from. SNAP—the nation’s food stamp program—is at risk for severe cuts that would impact millions of families, especially children, that rely on school meals and food stamps to survive. In response to the film, the country's leading anti-hunger organizations, Share Our Strength, Bread for the World, Feeding America, and The Food and Research Action Center, are asking supporters to help spread the word.

Private sector programs and charities aren’t enough. The only sustainable solution is for government policies to change, so we must make our voices heard.

Here's how you can get involved:

1. See the film

2. Spread the word on social media (follow the #takeyourplace hashtag!)

3. Join thousands of other advocates and send a letter to Congress TODAY (it only takes 30 seconds!)

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Will you join 150 bloggers in the fight against hunger?

In one week, food bloggers are uniting to fight against hunger in America. Since the announcement of this event began several weeks ago, 150 bloggers have pledged to donate their posts to the cause on April 8th. In addition to sharing a budget-friendly recipe (SNAP participants are allocated less than $4 per day), bloggers will issue an important call to action, requesting that their readers send letters to Congress.

If you'd like more information about the event and how to get involved, click here.

In case you missed them, here are some media stories you might be interested in.

A Paycheck Doesn't Mean You Won't Go Hungry In America

“The stereotypes about who gets governmental help, in our experience, that’s not the reality,” says Ross Fraser, spokesman for Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in America. “SNAP was created as a supplement for working people to help feed their families. The average monthly benefit is $134 a month. That works out to about $1.50 per meal. That’s hardly enough to live off of on its own.”

Taking A Place at the Table

With hunger at near record levels, including one of two American children expected to be on food assistance at some point during their lives, and with few elected officials talking about it or media focusing on it, filmmakers Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush perform an invaluable service by giving a voice to those who are too often voiceless, and in conveying that hunger can be solved.

Documentary Inspired Food Bloggers to Unite Against Hunger

In response to the dire situation, has come together to start "Food Bloggers Against Hunger." The idea of the movement and charity event is to unite food bloggers together on April 8 to take actions towards improving food assistance for families in need.

A Serving of Hard-to-Swallow Truths

This young woman — proud and strong and ambitious — looks into her refrigerator, nearly bare only five days after the last paycheck and the tears start to flow. “It’s tiring,” she says.

Food Bloggers Unite to Fight Hunger

The Giving Table, a blog whose motto is “Doing good with food,” has organized a campaign for food bloggers to join in the fight against hunger. Bloggers are being asked to dedicate their posts on April 8 to raising awareness about hunger and telling readers what they can do to advocate for changes in food policy. The campaign comes in response to the documentary “A Place at the Table,” about hunger in America. Thanks to @bittman for this tip.



One Nation, Underfed. + A Video

America is hungry.

On March 1st, the new food documentary A Place at the Tablewill release nationwide in theatres, on demand, and on iTunes. (Check out the trailer below.)

I was able to preview the film last year, and have been eager to share it with you ever since. Here's what Participant Media (the studio that brought you Food, Inc.), has to say about the film.

"Fifty million people in the U.S.—including one in five children—don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine the issue of hunger in America through the lens of three people struggling with food insecurity: Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to provide a better life for her two kids; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader who often has to depend on friends and neighbors to feed her and has trouble concentrating in school; and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health issues are exacerbated by the largely empty calories her hardworking mother can afford.

Ultimately, A Place at the Table shows us how hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for our nation, and that it could be solved once and for all, if the American public decides – as they have in the past – that making healthy food available and affordable is in the best interest of us all."