The winter break can be tough for many families whose children depend on school breakfasts and lunches for their substance and nutrition. This was made clear to me one Christmas when I got together with some children and youth in an underserved community. I asked them what they wanted for Christmas from my church. I threw out the usual ideas like games, books and toys. One of them said, "Forget about all that stuff. Could you just bring us food?" Thinking the other kids would protest, I was surprised when they perked up and agreed. They wanted food over toys.
That was the first time I realized hungry children are not just overseas, or in faraway places. They can be your next door neighbor who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in need.
The classes meeting Dec.10 -14 came to find out that I had no food for them this week. They were told that I ran out of money and could not afford to buy any more until next month. Once the disappointment sank in, they were quickly told that I made that up for them to understand how some children feel. The big difference is that no one in our group (that we know of) has to worry about long term hunger.
We read a version of stone soup, about a couple of hungry travelers who came into an affluent village and asked for food, only to be turned away. Like all the other stone soup books, the hungry travelers got to eat by tricking the residents into making a communal soup, which they happily shared. When the travelers leave, the village is different. The villagers are transformed into a sharing community.
Person-To-Person has been serving our community for over 50 years. During Christmas people get busy and forget about their food donations and sometimes the P2P's shelves are empty. What I learned directly from the children, is that toys are not fun if your stomach is empty.
During this week's classes. the children shared their own personal giving stories from raising funds for wells in Africa to helping their own family members. They also shared their stories of receiving kindness. During our conversations, a bag of canned goods appeared. From this bag the children were able to make a quick, delicious, inexpensive and nutritious meal in the wok.
At the end of class they were offered an empty brown bag to fill for Person-To-Person, if they want. The brown bag project is totally optional. I am not going to solicit information about who gave what, or if they even gave at all. Giving is a very personal thing. In no way am I trying to force my agenda on the children but open their minds to different ways to make their world a better place.
Person-To-Person is located behind Saint Lukes Church on the corner of Rings End and Post Roads, in case your child is interested pursuing this endeavor. For more information, their website is www.p2phelps.org.
The following recipe is for the Person-To-Person soup we made in class. The ingredients in this soup could make for some good brown bag donations. I have served it many times to large crowds, as well as my own family. It is easy to make, inexpensive and children as well as adults seem to like it. For our classes, I try to use fresh foods. I avoid anything that comes in a can, packet, jar or box, but for this lesson, I make an exception. The recipe follows.
P2P Taco Soup
1 lb. of ground beef
1 pkg of taco seasoning
1 can corn, not drained
1 can hominy, not drained
1 can pinto beans, not drained
1 small jar of mild Paces Picante sauce (other brands work well too)
Brown the ground beef, drain the grease, and combine all the rest of the ingredients in a soup pot, crockpot or wok until heated through. This soup can be served with an assortment of sour cream, cheese, crunched up tortilla chips, cut up green onions, and/or avocados.