Parents used to (maybe still do) attempt to make their children eat brussel sprouts for dinner by saying, “What about those starving children in Africa or China!” And though I’ve always been keenly aware of the hunger problem ‘out there’, I’ve also tried to remind my children that hunger also exists in the United States — in our own backyards. I knew in the end that discussions over broccoli at the dinner table wouldn’t give them a realistic look at the plight of those in need. They would need to witness it firsthand, so when I would volunteer at soup kitchens or raised money for can donations for the homeless and less fortunate, I’d make sure to have my kids in tow to help. I truly believe that had a significant impact on how they see their place in the world, and has kept them right-sized in a world among others.
I am so proud of the huge and important FEED initiative that my oldest daughter Lauren has formed in order to combat the issue of hungry, especially childhood hunger. Since Lauren found FEED in 2007, it has flourished into an organization dedicated to the fight against hunger and poverty, both in the United States and abroad. As a social business, FEED seeks to lend assistance to communities in need through the production and sale of apparel, accessories and gift items. Each product is stamped with a number symbolizing the real-world impact of the sale; donations range from school meals to fortified foods designed to promote optimal mother-child nutrition throughout pregnancy and infancy.
FEED’s initiatives seek to put an end to the larger problems facing millions of families worldwide, many of which stem from severe malnutrition. While serving as an honorary spokesperson for the World Food Programme, Lauren began to realize how great an impact school lunches alone could make. Research data suggests that when children are fed at school, attendance rates increase dramatically and overall academic performance improves notably. Females in particular benefit from additional schooling, as even just a few years of education greatly lowers their chances of becoming pregnant prematurely.
World hunger is not the only challenge FEED has taken on, however. The charity group works with artisans and cooperatives in countries like Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, and Kenya to create new opportunities in some of the most impoverished parts of the globe. Fair labor conditions are emphasized throughout all facets of the production cycle and environmentally-friendly materials are utilized whenever possible.
With each sale of a FEED-branded product, a corresponding donation is made in the form of school lunches, nutrient-rich powders or high-dose vitamin A supplements. The organization’s website notes the charitable benefit alongside each product. For example, the $75.00 FEED Backpack provides 75 healthy meals for schoolchildren around the world. The FEED 100 Shopper bag, meanwhile, promises to provide 100 vitamin A supplement capsules for a $35.00 purchase.
The benefits of school meals have been well documented, but efforts to distribute micronutrient powders and vitamin supplements can produce notable impacts as well. Micronutrient deficiency is a major threat both to the physical health and mental development of children. By supplementing foods prepared at home which are less rich in nutrients, this vulnerable segment of the population can be better protected and prepared for future success.
Similarly, vitamin A is a key player in both ocular health and immune system function. When daily intake of this vital nutrient is insufficient, children as well as new mothers are placed at risk. Administering high-dosage vitamin A capsules twice each year helps fight formation of deficiencies, promoting better health and overall survival rates.
Nearly 50 million Americans don’t know where their next meal will come from. Worldwide, over 800 million people are affected by hunger, over 60 percent of which are women. Innovative approaches to philanthropy such as the one taken by FEED are helping turn the tide on this global challenge, which in turn results in a number of communal benefits.
FEED strategically partners with charitable organizations including the UN World Food Programme, UNICEF, and Feeding America. To date, they have provided over 87 million meals to women and children in 63 different countries, including food aid contributions in the United States as well as emergency relief services worldwide.
Though the organization has accomplished much in raising awareness and funds to help assuage the alarming numbers of those left hungry everyday, I know my daughter strives always to do much more. I know this in the same way I knew that taking the young Lauren to soup kitchens to serve meals to the hungry would help shape an adult Lauren’s desire to think globally, act locally and always with publicly-minded intentions at heart.
As a former elementary school teacher who has worked at inner city schools, I have witnessed firsthand the dire straits of many students’ lives. Even after decades of dedicating myself to finding ways to improve the way children learn, live and thrive, I am as passionate today as I was when I first began my journey as an educator. After some time as a teacher, I had three small children of my own at home, all of whom I promised I would raise to understand the importance of giving back. In a sense, my children helped spark my philanthropy, and I’d like to think I sparked theirs.
Though I would love to take credit for raising three philanthropists, there are many factors that make a person charitable. But there are ways a parent can nurture and shape a child’s idea of community by imbuing in them an obligation to act with compassion for their fellow humans.
Here are some ways in which I’ve been able to do so:
Charity Starts At Home
According to Talk About Giving, 71% of adult children with philanthropic parents go on to be philanthropists themselves, while only 47% children of parents who do not give become philanthropists.
Spending quality time with your family can include giving back to your community together. For instance, having a lemonade stand where the proceeds are donated to charity or volunteering at food drives are simple ways for a child to give back and network with other like-minded children. It will also help them see that giving can and does work. Make these activities fun and rewarding.
Teaching Without Tech
Computers and iPads away! The technology in which the world is run today is always evolving – trying to keep us “connected”, but how connected are people to each other when the ‘virtual barriers’ keep us from face-to-face time?
According to a recent Psychology Today article, “[…] too much screen time and not enough other activities, such as reading, playing games, and good old unstructured and imaginative play, will result in your children having their brains wired in ways that may make them less, not more, prepared to thrive in this crazy new world of technology.”
Family sports, board games, and lo-fi outdoor activities (picnics, hikes, etc) can shift focus to your children’s imaginations. Creating habits early on will set in them the routine of connecting to their world, each other, and others. When they are ready to leave the nest, they will already be armed with ways to unplug from tech, create their own paths, stay away from peer pressure, and plug in to what I think of as the real sort of connection — one to their fellow man and woman. If they equate giving back as being a positive, worthwhile experience, they are more likely to want to contribute on their own.
Walk Your Talk
Follow through and lead by example. Though it may not seem like it all the time, children idolize and emulate the actions of their parents, more so than their words. In fact, toddlers develop a sense of themselves by imitating their parents. In other words, copying you is part of their developmental process.
The best way you can evoke a sense of pride for philanthropy in your children is to exhibit that pride in your own actions. You are more likely to raise a philanthropist if you are one yourself. Pass on the spirit of giving by making it an everyday part of your life.
Show Them The Real World
Our first instinct is to shield our children from anything negative, which is of course a good thing, but be sure they know that there are people in the world who need our help. That is to say, I don’t recommend exposing children to all the horrible things that exist! Instead, involve them in all the ways in which philanthropy helps.
My children have always known how much I have devoted my heart to charities because I have always included philanthropy in our home conversations. The more children know how important giving back is, and why we give back, the more educated they will be when it is time for them to carry on charitable missions as adults.
What Are Their Passions?
What are they interested in? What are their passions? As a parent, you are in a position to see everyday what makes your children happy. They are more likely to take part in philanthropic activities if it is related to something they are interested in.
Have a toy drive or a bake sale, throw a fundraiser for books or camping trips. I believe that the earlier you impress on them that giving can be fun, the easier they’ll incorporate that sort of thinking into their day-to-day lives.
In my years of parenting and charity work, I’ve come to see that paying it forward carries a reward in itself. What I am most proud of is having raised 3 wonderfully giving and community-minded children. Lauren is CEO and co-founder of The FEED Foundation, which has made great strides toward eliminating world hunger with 90 million meals provided to hungry children; my daughter Ashley is a filmmaker who tutors abused women to help them earn their GED degree; and my son Pierce is the CEO of the Texas chapter of the nonprofit Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Believe me, I did not spoil my children nor were they raised in an atmosphere of privilege. Instead, I encouraged them to be imaginative. Being able to see how my children have grown into amazingly giving adults is one of the greatest rewards for my philanthropy I’ve ever been given.
*Go to Sharon’s Huffington Post contributor page for more articles HERE
Talk About Giving Org (CHART)
Warm fats, oils and grease poured down residential or commercial sinks or toilets do not just disappear. Instead, the substances cool, harden, then stick to inner sewage pipes. After years of this type of abuse, FOG (fats, oils and grease) will clog up and damage an expansive number of sewage pipes. Perhaps surprisingly to some people, FOG includes everyday materials found in meats, food scraps, sauces, salad dressings as well as dairy products.
The United States EPA shows that 65% of all sewer spills are FOG-related, the majority of which was sewer backups in residential areas. Some of the damaging effects of this type of dumping can also result in:
- Overflowing of raw sewage into your home or business, causing ground floor flooding – an expensive and unpleasant clean-up
- Harmful and possible contact with disease-causing organisms
- Raw sewage overflow into parks, waterways like rivers and the lake and yards
- Expenses related to cleanup and maintenance costs to repair damaged sewer pipes
Aside from being expensive, toxic and unpleasant, chemicals and pollution in waterways have acute human health consequences:
“Chemical pollutants enter water sources as runoff from agricultural fields (pesticides) or as drain water (from kitchens and bathrooms) from human homes and businesses. These pollutants also seep into groundwater reservoirs from landfills and underground sewage containers. After these chemicals enter groundwater sources, they contaminate freshwater drinking supplies and are difficult to clean up.”
Unfortunately, many services to date use environmentally detrimental materials, like lye (sodium hydroxide) to combat the problems caused by FOG. But there are newer, better methods that can mitigate the destruction to pipes without using standard caustic cleaners, Protein Matrix Industrial Grease Remediation (IGR) being one.
Protein Matrix IGR (Industrial Grease Remediation) is the next generation non-toxic pollution removal method which is actually 120% more effective than sodium hydroxide. Tufts University’s research on lye versus Protein Matrix IGR actually showed that Protein Matrix converted fat into a byproduct that remained in liquid form for over 15 months at room temperature. Unlike lye-based commercial processes, which require long reaction times at elevated temperatures, Protein Matrix IGR converts FOG to a flowable liquid byproduct at ambient temperatures. This makes Protein Matrix an environmentally-safe and “green” solution – a mixture of ingredients extracted from plant materials. It is water-based, biodegradable, non-toxic, nonvolatile, and nonflammable — making it a more earth-conscious and efficient option.
The revolutionary science behind IGR is its ability to transform FOG into a byproduct that is digestible and easier to breakdown. The proteins found in Protein Matrix IGR disrupts the corruptive molecules by minimizing the formation of solid blocks of fat, producing a dispersible, natural product. This natural product prevents the FOG to re-adhere to itself, creating a benign fluid downstream flow. The active ingredients in the Protein Matrix IGR has an enhanced FOG to fluid conversion process that works quicker than traditional, toxic measures. By using Protein Matrix IGR to breakup FOG particles before reaching wastewater treatment plants (WWTP), microorganisms are not adversely affected by the sewage treatment process. Protein Matrix IGR can also be used in a wide variety of non-sewage applications like commercial kitchen baking racks as an all-purpose degreaser so its applications are vast.
While using greener products like Protein Matrix IGR cannot solve the many devastating environmental issues gripping the world today, the methods in which FOG-related issues are traditionally handled need to be re-examined. Educating people to completely stop pouring fat, oils and grease down their drains, sinks and toilets would be preferred. Until then, moving towards a greener, more earth-conscious alternative is crucial to sustaining our health as well as the health of our environment.
Photos courtesy of Protein Matrix
Sharon Bush is an accomplished philanthropist who has worked for nearly four decades to bring resources to impoverished women, children and families around the world. Her altruism and business acumen have had a powerful effect, and many global organizations have recognized her humanitarian efforts with awards and accolades.
Sharon Bush is an accomplished philanthropist who has worked for nearly four decades to bring resources to underprivileged women, children and families around the world. Her altruism and business acumen have had a powerful results, and many global organizations have recognized her humanitarian efforts with awards and accolades.