What Kids Can Do
Kids frequently ask us for information about what they can do to make a difference. So, we decided to create a What Kids Can Do page where you can come for ideas about how to get involved.
We also hope that you will email your accomplishments to us for posting on the What Kids Can Do page. That way, we can all learn from each other.
Here are some ways you can start to MAKE A DIFFERENCE:
The first step in helping end hunger is talking about hunger. Begin teaching your family and friends what you know about hunger. As you learn more, develop and teach hunger workshops to students in other classes and other schools.
Hunger is everywhere including the city or town you live in. Find out what organizations are helping those people who are hungry. Find out what you can do to help... and do it!
The purpose of writing letters to alert government officials, newspaper editors, local business leaders, producers of television news programs, etc. of the knowledge you have gained about the root causes of hunger and what can be done locally or nationally to eliminate it. Writing letters demonstrates that when people with a common purpose combine their skills and energies the results are magnified. Even while you are educating others about hunger and working with local organizations to end hunger's causes, it is also important to write letters to elected officials, newspaper editors or television news producers, and company presidents because this can often lead to getting policies changed. If you can get government officials and members of the media talking about their ideas then you will have a better chance at winning support for your cause and possibly getting laws changed or instituted to improve people's lives. Some topics include: homelessness, hunger and the elderly, children, unemployment, unequal education, environmental protection, discrimination, the media's role in educating about hunger, etc. Choose an example related to your community's needs or one currently being discussed in your newspapers.
Young people have two distinct advantages over adults when it comes to testifying before legislative bodies --- they stand out in the usual crowd of adults, and committee members know that children have no vested interest in getting a particular law passed other than their own passionate belief that the law will protect people or their natural surroundings. Helping shape legislation this way is an extremely empowering and exciting experience for young people. It can set the foundation for a lifetime of activism and community involvement. There is a great deal of preparation that must be undertaken in order give effective testimony.
Here are two suggestions on how to begin: You and your classmates may already have a specific idea on what can be done in your community, such as turning a vacant city lot into a community garden or urging the local Department of Education to insure students who need them get free breakfasts and lunches or school supplies.
Another way to approach this is to support a cause already underway in your community. Pay close attention to related hunger issues being debated by the media. When issues have received media attention there is often an outspoken, visible leader pushing for legislation. If this leader's ideas connect with yours, you can call the legislator after you have researched the topic and tell her you want to testify.
Note: It is essential that you and your fellow classmates research your issue thoroughly before approaching City Hall or the local school board. (For instance, who owns the vacant lot? Does the surrounding community want it turned into a garden? Are they willing to help tend it? How will it help the community? How will the food be distributed?)
BAKE SALE - Everyone's favorite! Include baked foods from around the world.
NEIGHBORHOOD FLEA-MARKET - Students and their families can get their books, used clothes, tapes or hand-made crafts together to sell. Ask them to donate part or all of their profits to a particular cause.
COSTUME BALL - Hold this event around Halloween. Give it an international theme. Charge admission.
READ, DANCE OR WALK-A-THON - Collect pledges from family, friends and community members for each hour or mile students walk or dance, or for each book read.
STUDENT-FACULTY PLAY-OFF - Compete for the benefit of others. Choose a sport - volleyball, basketball, etc., and invite the rest of the school as well as parents to watch and cheer. Sell tickets or charge admission at the door.
TALENT SHOW - Hold a student-faculty talent show. Sell tickets. Advertise the event. Donate the proceeds.
JUSTICE-QUILT RAFFLE - Organize reading groups in your classroom. Have each group read and report on three or four books related to social justice. Choose books from the resource guide found in Finding Solutions To Hunger: Kids Can Make A Difference Teacher Guide by Stephanie Kempf. Each group must illustrate a fabric panel for each book and include the title of the book and the author. The panel can depict a central theme of the book or a favorite scene. Use fabric paint. When all the panels are finished, have students and parents sew them together in quilt form. Hang the quilt in the school lobby and raffle it off. Donate the money to a local hunger organization or use it to fund a hunger commercial for radio.
ART SHOW - Hold an art contest where local artists and students enter up to three pieces of their art at $5 per entry. Try to get a local gallery owner to donate space for the event and recruit local celebrities as judges. You could also sell this artwork and donate a portion of the proceeds to your favorite organization.
POETRY READING - Hold a poetry reading in your favorite cafe. Get students or family members to volunteer to read their own or other's poems related to hunger, homelessness, discrimination, etc. Pass the hat and ask diners to contribute. Explain where the money will go. Try to get local news coverage for your event --- this will also appeal to the restaurant owner whose establishment gets free advertising!
COMMUNITY AUCTION - Ask families, friends and community businesses to donate their specialties - including skills - to be auctioned off. Be creative! Some teachers and students have had themselves auctioned for a day of baby-sitting, or a day of museum-gazing with a small child, etc. Teachers have made videos of their classroom over the course of the year and auctioned them off to parents. Restaurant and theater owners can donate dinners and seats to shows. This takes some organizing but can raise lots of money for your cause and will alert the community and get everyone involved as well. Students can create posters, canvas the neighborhood for donations, etc.
FAST - Give up one meal a week or give up junk food for one week and donate the money to a cause. Get the school involved by going around to other classes and explaining where their money will go. Place large containers in each classroom in which students can place their change.
SEASONAL CELEBRATION - Hold a seasonal pot-luck dinner. For instance, in autumn ask participants to bring a seasonal dish. Eat outside under colorful trees. Organize simple games and activities to attract children to the event - leaf rubbings, scavenger hunt, story-telling, autumn poetry readings, etc. Charge admission.
CAR-WASH - Students can hold a weekend car-wash to raise money or they can make themselves available to run errands, do yard work or walk dogs, etc. Have them make up fliers to advertise their services and explain where the money will go that is earned.
BIRTHDAY DONATIONS - On birthdays students can ask parents, friends and grand-parents to make a donation to a special organization instead of buying a gift. Students can do the same for other people's birthdays. Make up a card for the birthday person explaining that a donation was made in honor of his/her birthday to a local organization. Explain how the organization works.
What Other Kids Have Done
1. Two Sixth grade students in Concord, New Hampshire wrote to all 100 U.S. Senators about a bill the Senate was discussing dealing with the homeless. They had done their "homework" and presented their arguments in a highly professional manner. They received responses from nearly every Senator (or a member of his/her staff) explaining the Senator's position.
2. Twelve year-olds in Sandwich, Massachusetts testified at their state capitol to help pass a law that would ban smoking on public school grounds. The law was passed and several other states adopted similar laws.
3. In Chelmsford, Massachusetts a twelve-year old started a petition and testified with friends at a town meeting to protect a wooded area from being destroyed by a condominium development project. The woods are still there.
4. Seventh grade students in South Portland, Maine conducted a program at the Portland Museum of Art entitled "Celebrating The Arts In Honor of World Hunger Education." This same class "adopted" a single parent family living in a local shelter and provided them "with a Christmas they will never forget." For more details on the program at The Mahoney Middle School, please see the Fall 1997 Kids Newsletter.
5. A Chicago community health clinic that provides services for poor, pregnant women and infants was about to be shut down for lack of funds. Fifty children organized a protest in front of the clinic drawing the attention of the media and lawmakers. The clinic remained open.
6. Fourth Grade students in Kittery Maine ran a canned food drive at their school and donated the food to the local food pantry. Representatives of the classes helped prepare the food for distribution to the clients of the food pantry.
7. Another group of Fourth Graders in Eliot, Maine conducted a fund raising event at the school and presented the money they raised to their local food pantry.
8. Fifth and Sixth Grade students at a private school in New York City produced the April 1997 issue of the Kids Newsletter. They and their teachers studied the problems of hunger for a full year. For further information on the program and their results, please see their issue of the newsletter.
9. Students from the sixth grade at a private school in New York City gave up a weekend to help raise funds for World Hunger Year. Some of them were on the phone bank during the annual HUNGERTHON radio show.
10. Students in Concord, New Hampshire hosted a "hunger banquet" for their parents. Everyone was required to bring canned food for the local food pantry.
11. A Seventh Grade student researched the topic of hunger for an honors program he was taking at his school in New Jersey. He developed a theory for ending world wide hunger and presented the results of his findings to the World Hunger Year Board of Directors. See the Kids Newsletter of October 1996 for further information.
12. An award winning video was developed and produced by a Sixth Grade class in Bellingham, Massachusetts. The students were responsible for the choreography, costumes, scenery and every member of the class performed.