This is the time of year many appeals to help feed the homeless and the hungry are sent out. And many people answer those appeals by donating money, food, or time. I would bet everyone reading this blog and others like it is not ‘food insecure’. How do you help those who are? Is it only when reminded by the holiday appeals that you help or do you assist in other ways all year ‘round? I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty or obligated – just wondering if this is something you think about.

For those who are able to help with donations of money or food, I would encourage you to check out the program(s) you consider supporting. Some do a better job of helping those most in need than other programs. It is so disheartening to hear of a food bank where the volunteers skim off the best products, although I’m hoping that is rare. Some food banks prefer cash contributions to food stuffs as they can sometimes get wholesale prices and more products for the dollar. I also like to donate a bag of personal care products – things that cannot be bought with food stamps but are necessary for personal dignity. Many families make it a tradition to help prepare and serve meals at shelters – this is a great way to impress on children the importance of sharing.

While you may not be food insecure – you have enough food, good food, can eat when you want – are you hungry in other ways? Certainly one can imagine the hunger of the homeless and the very poor for more than just food. Hunger for security, for safety, for someone who cares, etc. Yet even those who aren’t homeless or poor may hunger for these things; or for family and friends with whom to share; for meaningful work; for better health. The nutrition school I attended considers what we eat to be “secondary food” and lifestyle issues to be “primary food”. This is an important distinction! Yes, food is essential to live and good, clean food is essential to good health. But to get the most from this life, our relationships, our home and family life, our work, our health, and our spirituality are also essential. This is true regardless of socio-economic status. How can we feed these needs, satisfy the pangs?

First you need to identify what it is you hunger for, where is your life lacking? If you love your work and feel you contribute to society by doing it, then that is all good, but if not, is it time for a change? Do you feel a lack of a spiritual center? Are there money troubles? Is your marriage suffering from lack of attending to it? Once you know where the effort needs to go, what you need to feed, you can make a plan.

By helping those who are most in need, we feed our compassion. Maybe you offer your time and money as part of a spiritual practice, so that feeds your spirituality. Perhaps stress at work has you snapping at a family member, so you could make a focused effort on refraining from taking it out on them and on explaining why you have been so cranky. From that discussion may follow ideas on how to relieve or remove the cause of the stress – at the very least sharing with a loved one brings understanding and caring. If there is a health concern, what changes can you make in other areas of your life, like your diet, alcohol consumption, or stress level to resolve or alleviate the concern? Engaging in mindful meditation can bring many benefits to your life, in relationships, spirituality, compassion for others, and health. Expressing true gratitude for the food you eat and for all the people who had a hand in getting that food before you is another way of feeding the inner hunger.

I just encourage you, in this season and all seasons, to consider both life hunger and food hunger, for yourself and for others. In helping others, you help yourself in ways you may not even know.

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