It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which means that your kids are probably home from school for a long weekend. We’re thankful for this day with them to remember the powerful words and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While we always recommend books as a great way to talk with your kids about important topics—these fantastic books about MLK are a good place to start—we also find that engaging children in an act of service is a meaningful way to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.
There are many wonderful ways to give back, but if you’re having a hard time figuring out the best way for you and your children to volunteer in your community, you might want to consider donating to or committing to volunteering at a food bank.
The concept of social justice can be very difficult for children, especially young ones, to understand. Food, though, is universal.
Even very small children understand that everyone needs food to live well, and explaining that some people don’t have enough food to thrive can be as simple and straightforward as just that: explaining that it’s the case. And, sadly, it is.
According to Feeding America, 1 in 7 Americans struggles with hunger.
Food insecurity in America affects people across all different ages and backgrounds, from seniors to children, rural to urban, Latinos to African-Americans, both communities disproportionately—but not solely—impacted by hunger in the U.S. Unfortunately, chances are there are people in your very own extended community who are affected by food insecurity.
Given Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of uniting people from all backgrounds to work together to improve their communities, I think helping fight hunger is a meaningful way to honor the day. If you want to know where to start, try these four amazing organizations. Then, just pick a day or a few hours with your children, mark your calendars and see just where a small commitment might lead.
In my own hometown, the Food Bank for New York City has been hosting the MLK Weekend of Service, in which they invite New Yorkers to open-door service actions around the five boroughs. If you also live in New York City, it’s a great all-ages resource. You don’t have to live in New York City, though, to do something. And there are lots of ways to volunteer all year long.
Feeding America is always one of our go-to sites, packed with resources, statistics, information, and even a great toolkit for how to speak to children about hunger. They do so much good around the country, and if you’re interested in doing more, use their zip code lookup that can help you find a food bank near you and learn how to either donate to or volunteer at local facilities. You might be surprised to find that even upper-middle-class communities offer plenty of opportunities.
The Corporation for National and Community Service honors the day with an annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. They also offer a zip code lookup to help connect volunteers with local places to serve via allforgood.org. While the results are not be exclusively food-related, many are.
And if you click through from All for Good, you’ll find helpful links to Points of Light initiatives, including this great list of conversation starters for American Sunday Supper which could help you spark your own initiative.
Share our Strength is the organization behind the No Kid Hungry initiative, which has been a highly effective way of connecting children from food insecure homes with effective nutrition programs that offer the meals they really need to thrive. Their community-based approach has helped them grow to a widely successful national organization. Visit the site to find local and national organizations combatting hunger in your own neighborhood, city, and state and see how you can help a program that specifically targets children most in need.
And, of course, Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy is best served by engaging in community service all year long, not just on a single day. If you can’t find the right opportunity for today or this week, I really hope you’ll keep these resources on hand for whenever you and your family have time to lend a hand.