Faith In Action: Short-term And Long-term -Congregational Hunger Awareness
Activity time: 30 minutes
Materials for Activity
- One to four large sheets of poster board
- Newsprint, markers and tape
- Color markers for participants to share
Preparation for Activity
Review all four hunger awareness activities that are suggested here: (1) make welcome signs for a food pantry (short-term activity), (2) conduct a congregational food drive, (3) learn about local food needs, and (4) visit and/or volunteer at a food pantry.
- You may choose to do any combination of these activities. Introduce the project today. Plan to have the children make "Welcome" signs today, while longer-range plans take shape. Find follow-up steps in Session 7: Seeing Others with Awe.
- Call local food pantries to find out what food needs they have.
- Identify a food pantry that will display "Welcome" signs the children will make.
- Find out whether children in this age range would be allowed to volunteer in some capacity at a food pantry. If so, determine which volunteer opportunities would be appropriate for your congregation and set a date for the children to help.
- Make a plan to bring hunger awareness to parents and others in your congregation. Coordinate plans with your minister to involve the entire congregation, including adults other than the children's parents, in the volunteer work. For example, consider collecting food every Sunday for a month in a special offering during the worship service.
- Set up a visit during coffee hour or another arranged time with a worker or trained volunteer from the food pantry to talk with the children and others in the congregation about local food needs. Be sure the speaker understands the audience will include young children. If possible, have the children gather a few minutes before the informational session to brainstorm questions they would like to ask the worker from the food pantry. If children will visit the food pantry, this guest should come before the children's visit there. Or, the guest's presentation could be in lieu of children going to the food pantry.
- Consult your director of religious education to identify a central location for food donation collection and to announce the plan to the congregation through the newsletter, email lists, Sunday announcements or bulletins.
- Write the word "Welcome" on newsprint, and post.
- If a group will be visiting the food pantry, create a sign-up sheet and recruit volunteers. Communicate the expected numbers of volunteers, and their ages, to workers at the food pantry. Be sure to tell volunteers that the activity includes an after-the-fact discussion of the experience, and when and where that discussion will take place.
- Provide directions and arrange transportation to the food pantry.
Description of Activity
In this session, participants had the opportunity to experience a welcome feast. Many people in the United States are often not "welcome at the table," and do not have enough food to eat. This Faith in Action activity introduces the idea of extending welcome to others by going to volunteer at a food pantry and/or holding a food drive. It concretizes the notion of welcome by guiding children to make "Welcome" signs for the food pantry. In addition to welcome, the spiritual practices of generosity, gratitude, and humility are all implicitly a part of this activity as participants confront the realities of poverty and hunger and take action.
To introduce the food drive and/or volunteer work, say:
In the story you heard, Mullah Nasruddin was not welcome at the table in his dirty clothes. Some people don't have a feast to go to, and some people don't even have a home. Many families don't have enough food to eat.
Tell the class briefly about your planned food drive and/or work at the food pantry. Then continue:
When people go to the food pantry, we don't want them to feel like Nasruddin did. We want everyone to know that they are welcome, no matter what, so we are going to make welcome signs.
Invite them to use the color markers and poster board to decorate one to four large welcome signs which will be posted at the soup kitchen or food pantry. Point out the newsprint where you have written the word "Welcome." You may want to assign small groups of children to work together on a poster. If you help them make "bubble letters," a few children can color them in at a time.
Children in second and third grade are often very compassionate and concerned when they encounter injustice. Participation in a concrete service project provides them with an outlet for their concern and empowers them as agents of justice. Moreover, they will experience what it means to translate into action our Unitarian Universalist principles, which promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person as well as justice, equity and compassion in human relations. By participating in this or similar projects, children will learn that one aspect of a religious life is serving others and being responsive to their human needs.
Including All Participants
It is important to remember as you plan and lead this activity that some families in your congregation, and some children in the group, might be homeless or living below the poverty line. Be careful to use language that includes this possibility and that does not assume all of the children come from financially wealthy homes. You can help normalize the experience by saying something like, "Some families in our congregation sometimes go to the food pantry and lots of families need the help of food pantries at some time or other." However, be respectful of the right to personal privacy and do not identify particular individuals without permission.