We Can Conquer Hunger
Guest blogger Meskie Mize shares why fighting hunger is so important to her, and why she dedicates her time to the One Million Meals Campaign.
Before I can tell you how working with United Way on their Summer Meals Campaign was for me, I have to briefly explain my own life.
I was adopted from Ethiopia in 2001 by a single mom who has now been raising me by herself for thirteen years. Before my adoption, I lived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with my four older siblings. We had lost our parents when I was one and two years old, which left my teenage siblings to raise me, the baby alone. By the time I was five years old, it became very clear that I was not getting the proper care that I needed for my age, especially in health and nutrition. I was becoming too malnourished and there was nothing my siblings could do. Food was never something my siblings and I could always expect to have. I remember having to go several days without anything to eat.
Hunger is a feeling and an emotion you cannot ever forget.
United Way’s, One Million Meals Campaign is a two-year movement to serve One Million summer meals to kids and teens in King County. The Summer Meals gives kids ages eighteen and younger an opportunity to eat free meals and snacks from June until the end of August. It also provides an opportunity for parents and guardians to not stress over their child’s nutrition for the summer. [Find a site near you!]
Each child is handed a well-balanced meal with vegetables, protein, carbohydrates, fruit, and calcium. The meals are distributed in various sites all over the city such as community centers, camps, faith-based organizations and parks. Along with providing food, the United Way interns also provide activities and educational lessons for the kids who choose to participate. We want eating healthy and feeling healthy to be viewed as high priorities for the kids and parents who are active at our sites. United Way is well on its way in reaching their goal of serving One Million meals in King County, but it is hardly about reaching this big number. It’s about providing awareness in our communities about issues that might not necessarily affect every single one of us, but definitely impacts us all.
Now that you have an understanding of where I come from and my past struggles with hunger, I can tell you how working on the One Million Meals Campaign was for me. It was both reflective and enlightening. It made me think back on my years in Ethiopia, which is a memory I usually do not take time to reflect on, but it also taught me that hunger and malnutrition are not just international issues; they happen in our own communities.
We often hear parents telling their children, “finish your dinner, there are starving kids in Africa,” but what about the starving kids down the street? Why don’t we like to talk about them or tell our kids to think about them? I guess many Americans like to imagine pain and struggle as something that only touches our borders, but doesn’t actually enter. We need to get out of that mindset. Pain, struggle, hunger, malnutrition and even death from hunger are all issues that are within our borders and we need to start viewing them as community issues instead of something that happens in a place far away.
As astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, who was the second person to walk on the moon once said, “If we can conquer space, we can conquer childhood hunger.” I believe we can, too.