We’re having Thanksgiving dinner at our house this year. It will be a small celebration–just My Beautiful Wife, her mom and brother, my son, I hope. Becky and I don’t eat turkey, but we’ll have it for the carnivores. (I don’t mind carving it. I just don’t want to eat it.) We may have Quorn-brand fake turkey, but we really don’t need it. We’re preparing mashed potatoes, stuffing, mushroom gravy, green beans, sweet potato casserole, salad–all before the pie and whipped cream and the falling asleep in front of the football game.

That’s a lot of food for five people, and we’ll have a lot left over. We’re generally pretty good about eating leftovers, but I’m sure some of it is bound to end up in the compost bin.

Which is better than the landfill, I suppose. Which is where about 40% of our food supply ends up.

Meanwhile, 16,000 children in the world die every day due to causes related to hunger and malnutrition.

I’m not going to belabor this point. It doesn’t need belaboring. Facts is facts. You can get more facts about world hunger lots of places, including here.

I’m just going to ask a few simple questions:

If you knew your next-door neighbor were starving, would you feed her?

If you knew a family living a block away had nothing to eat, would you give them food?

If you knew that kids who went to school with your kids didn’t have a good meal today, would you do what you could to give them one?

If you knew there were people in your city who lived in poverty and couldn’t afford to feed themselves and their families, would you donate to food pantries and soup kitchens and community kitchens?

If there were a city in your state where 16,000 people a day were starving to death, would you sacrifice whatever you could to make it stop?

How far do we have to widen the circle before you say, “No, I wouldn’t help”? We don’t see all these starving children every day, so it’s easy to pretend they don’t exist. But, just the same, every five seconds, another child dies.

Please understand, I’m not trying to be a bleeding-heart crank or to ruin your weekend. We’re going to enjoy our Thanksgiving, and I hope you will, too. It’s my favorite holiday. I love the communion with family, the celebration of food, the love that goes into the preparation. And I understand that my vegetarian diet is a choice I’m privileged to be able to make.

I’m also not going to stand on a soapbox and insist that you see global hunger as the most important cause in the world. There may be something you think is more important (although if it has anything to do with your property taxes, I’m going to disagree, perhaps a little less than respectfully).

I’m just going to make two statements and ask one more question:

16,000 children die of hunger or complications related to hunger every day.

We have the technology and the capacity to feed the world; yet we plow under or throw away 40% of our food supply.


Two notes: first, the photo on the front page is from Second Helpings, the community kitchen in Indianapolis that feeds about 2,500 people a day with food that was destined for a landfill. It’s a pretty remarkable organization.

Second: “Do They Know It’s Christmas Time?” was kind of an awful song by a couple of guys whose hearts were in the right place. The song raised a lot of money for hunger relief. Still, 16,000 children die every day. Perhaps if we really want to feed the world, it’s not the message of Christmas we should remember, but rather that of Thanksgiving–this most American of holidays. We have so much to be thankful for, and we consume so many of the world’s resources. Perhaps it’s up to us to insist, once and for all, that everyone in the world deserves enough food to sustain life.