Goal #2 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. I have been working with hunger organizations for a long time.
I grew up a Lutheran. I learned very quickly what a potluck was (long before Garrison Keillor started revealing them to the world). While I was a pastor in my first call, I had a dream to set the world’s record for the largest potluck. My plan was to make the event one that would bring awareness to the issues surrounding hunger. The more I articulated me dream to others, the more people looked at me funny.
I joined Facebook in 2008. Back then, many of us used it more to play games than to communicate. There was an app called “Dishes From the Church Basement”. You could send your friends all sorts of strange potluck dishes (many of which I had actually encountered). Kim Conway Hester, a seminary classmate of mine, called me one December day in 2008. She wanted to know might stop having virtual potlucks, and use the concept of a potluck to bring awareness to hunger. Eureka!! Someone who will listen to the dream. From that conversation, a grassroots movement was formed, which at that time was called “A Month of Potlucks”.
We asked several of our friends to join us in March of 2009. We chose March because the entire month fell in Lent that year. Lent is a time when Lutherans will typically have potlucks.We wanted to have a potluck on every day of the month. We asked that congregations have a potluck. During that potluck, have some sort of speaker to bring awareness of hunger; provide information on how those who attend might engage hunger on a local, regional, national, or global level; and then to take a freewill offering and send it to ELCA World Hunger, the hunger initiative of our denomination. We had 27 potlucks across the country that raised almost $4,000.
Because of the success in 2008, we chose to try the project again the next year. We chose the month of June 2009, with the same concept. We had 168 congregations participate and raised almost $8,000. We re-evaluated our effort and decided we would not focus on a single month, but to provide assistance on a continual basis. We changed the name to Potlucks To End World Hunger. We still encourage small groups to gather around a meal. As they gather to eat, remember there are those locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, who are hungry or do not know when their next meal will be. During the potluck, have an awareness component that sheds light on the issues, both short-term and systemic, that leads to hunger and food insecurity. We also ask to have information available that people may move to action on the local, regional, national, and global levels. And we also ask to make a monetary donation for an organization that works in the areas addressing hunger issues and needs.
In 2010, we started setting up “Hunger Huddles”. A Hunger Huddle brings people together on a regional basis to discuss the on-the-ground issues in a particular location. We assist in securing speakers to bring awareness to the real issues of hunger, information on the reality of hunger in that area, how to become an advocate for the hungry and food-insecure, how be move to action on a personal level, and the organizations that are doing the work in that area. We have held Hunger Huddles in Columbus OH, Atlanta GA, New Philadelphia OH and Cleveland OH.
Our efforts with Potlucks allowed me to serve on the Hunger Task for the Southern Ohio Synod (ELCA). I worked on teams that provided training seminars for individuals interested in working in the areas of hunger and food-insecurity. We brought in national speakers to assist with this training. That task force also works to support combating Malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, and Disaster Response, both domestically and internationally.
In November 2013, I turned 50 years old. I decided to wear a kilt everyday for a year, from my 50th to my 51st birthday. I would do this in part to bring awareness, advocacy, action and funds to two organization, one being ELCA World Hunger, through Potlucks To End World Hunger. It was an interesting year, traveling around, speaking in part about hunger.
I even had the opportunity to speak at the national offices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and was able to put the staff of ELCA World Hunger in Kilts!
In December of 2014, the first ever Global Nutrition Report was issues. Take a look at the report of see what sparks for you. Hunger is a complicated, multi-faceted, global dilemma. But each of us can make difference.
I still had a dream. My next step was to try and set the World’s record for the World’s Largest Potluck. In January 2015, I started to put the plan into place. People started to see the same dream. On November 18th, 2015, a group of people went to the Ohio Statehouse. We held a press conference, where several news agencies were present. Later in the day, we were able to meet with the staffs of six (6) legislators.
On November 21, 2015, we held the World’s Largest Potluck attempt at a Civic Center in Cambridge, Ohio. Everyone had a great time as we gathered for a meal, learned about hunger, met with representatives of agencies working for the hungry, and began to put our voices together to be advocates.
Research has shown that we are making strides to combat hunger, malnutrition, food insecurity, and may other hunger-related issues. But there is still work to do. And we can all make a difference. I spent a year wearing a kilt to help with the effort! The concept of the potluck is symbolic of our approach. The potluck is a meal that is open to all. Some bring a little, so that all may have an abundance. We gather as a community, to care for one another, to build relationships with one another, and to speak up for one another. More information may be found on Potlucks To End World Hunger Facebook Group.
Potlucks To End World Hunger has allowed my to served on Hunger Task Forces in Southern Ohio, Metro NYC, and New Jersey. I have sat on governing boards of food pantries in Southern Ohio and Long Island, NY. I have also had several opportunities to work directly with ELCA World Hunger.
If you are interested in having an event, contact us and we will assist as we can. Become aware, become an advocate, become an action; locally, regionally, nationally, globally. Dare to dream! What can you do? It starts with one action, one meal, one effort, one voice. Together we can make a greater difference.