The Rice Dinner Project

By Rita Juhl

We have all seen the picture in the newspaper or magazine….a child dressed in rags sits on the ground, painfully thin, with large penetrating eyes looking directly into the camera. We quickly recognize that the child is hungry, and a wave of compassion comes over us, and we think: "What can I do to help this poor little person?" After one such experience, the idea came to me that I should promote a "Rice Dinner Project." Let me back up a bit…when our children were young, Dick and I decided that once a month we would have a meager meal of just plain rice, and the money that we saved from not preparing a regular meal of meat, potatoes, etc. would be sent to an organization that dealt with world-wide hunger concerns. We felt that it was important to teach our children that this is what a large portion of the world eats as its only meal almost every day of the year. We wanted to teach our children empathy for those who are less fortunate, and also to teach them the value of sharing with others. Of course, Dick and I have been "empty nesters" for many years, and we had given up this monthly dinner idea long ago.

It occurred to me that a similar endeavor could be put into practice easily and economically, involving anyone who wanted to sign on to the program. Our pastor, Pr. Julie Ebbesen, suggested that I make an appeal to our congregation, St. Peder’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, and see if there would be interest in starting such a project. The response was overwhelming! A majority of our church members have made a year-long commitment to eat a rice meal once a month, and send the money they feel they are saving to an organization that has as its goal the alleviation of hunger around the world. I suggested that $10.00 per month was a reasonable amount to send (although quite a few of our participants have said they are sending a larger, more realistic amount every month). I did some research, and recommended the two following organizations as places to send our contributions. These two use 100% of the money they receive for their stated purpose of helping combat hunger amongst those who need help the most.

Feed My Starving Children
6750 W. Broadway Ave
Brooklyn Park, MN. 55428-2355

ELCA World Hunger
P.O. Box 71764
Chicago, IL. 60694-1764

Another organization that accomplishes much and is also ecumenical is:

Bread for the World
50 F Street NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20001-1567

Of course, any organization of your choice would welcome any contributions that were made to them.

There are literally no administrative costs to join this effort. No one keeps track of how much you are sending, or when. At the end of the year’s time, no one will ask you for an accounting of how much money you have given. The program virtually runs itself, and how you choose to implement the idea is completely up to you. I can say with much joy that I have heard from many people who are participating that it is a privilege to be regularly sharing their bounty with those who are less fortunate. Of course it is a wonderful opportunity for parents with children to teach the lesson of sharing, and to promote a feeling of empathy and concern for those in the world who are less fortunate than ourselves. It is a sobering thought to realize that this meager meal is what a very large portion of the world population eats every day.

Why not consider joining this effort, either on an individual basis, or perhaps you could propose the Rice Dinner Project to a group or congregation to which you belong? People in our congregation have told neighbors and friends about the idea, and we have heard that others are getting on board with enthusiasm. It is easy to get started. Just do it!

Your costs will be the price of a bag of rice, (a 5 lb. bag of rice can be bought for $2.50, and it contains 50 servings,) and the cost of a stamp to mail in your monthly contribution. At St. Peders I asked our secretary to make mailing labels with the addresses for the two organizations that we are supporting, so that people could have a supply of mailing labels at home, making the monthly mailing more convenient. But of course, the labels are not a necessary part of the whole picture.

If 100 contributing units (a family, a couple, or an individual) send in $10.00 per month for a year, $12,000.00 will have been made available to combat hunger in the world! If you do the math, this project, when implemented by many people and organizations, can truly make a significant change come about.

A leader of the Feed My Starving Children organization was telling us a few months ago about Haitian biscuits. Parents in Haiti make these for their children to eat when the children are crying from hunger pangs and there is not enough money to feed them properly. The ingredients for these biscuits are: dirt, shortening, salt, and water. They are formed into a pancake shape and dried in the sun. What a disturbing picture this is! There is a huge need for those of us who live so well to share with those who don’t. To give you a perspective of how your money is used, Feed My Starving Children can furnish a healthy meal for 15 cents. One million meals would cost $150,000. This is do-able!

If this project interests you, or stirs you into action, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments. I can say with conviction that the idea has been embraced with enthusiasm among our congregation members, and it is spreading out, not unlike ripples in a stream. I am convinced that there is a huge need and that this project can successfully address that need. If we support the Rice Dinner Project with our monetary resources, we can together truly make a difference!

Rita Juhl
4300 W. River Parkway, #419
Minneapolis, MN. 55406
(612) 729-2058
rrjuhl@aol.com