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Our “Share A Meal” Potluck Dinner — Check Out Those Happy Faces!

jaden-sitting-at-the-table

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As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been completely moved by Unilever Project Sunlight’s “Share A Meal” initiative and, when approached about spreading the word about this campaign, I happily obliged. In fact, I signed on to complete my own “Share A Meal” activity, whereby I would make an effort to end child hunger via a small gesture. There are plenty of ways to make a difference: volunteering at a soup kitchen or market pantry, helping to organize food drives, inviting a family in need over for dinner, donating to Feeding America, initiating a fund-raising campaign online and directing those funds to hunger-fighting organizations, and so forth. I chose to do something that would help bring together my closest friends and neighbors, as well as some acquaintances who are experiencing tough times (and, truth be told, in post-recession America, many people are still struggling with joblessness or professional insecurity, lower incomes, sky-high food prices, and so forth). I decided to, with the help of my best friend’s family, host a pot luck dinner and invite our mutual friends and acquaintances.

My BFF’s mom, shown wearing her snazzy apron in the second picture above, whipped up some crowd-pleasing dishes including some macaroni & cheese for the kiddos (her nephew, shown at top, was thrilled that the dish was on the menu) and a succulent pernil (roast pork).  I made my world-famous empanadas  (okay, maybe I’m being hyperbolic there, but they are usually a hit), which are basically Puerto Rican beef patties. I also prepared a huge batch of arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), which is a pretty popular side dish among Latino families — especially in the fall and when the holidays approach. Even my husband got in on the fun and he baked some breaded pork chops!

Take a look at some of the dishes we served:

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By pooling our resources together and having each person cook 1-2 dishes, we were able to enjoy quite the feast while also having plenty of food leftover for all of our guests — some of whom had gone the entire day (or even two days) without any food. We ended up having such an abundance of food that we were even able to send some folks home with leftovers they could reheat later on. Look at the main dining room table:

food-on-the-table

Because so many guests were present, it turned into a party of sorts and everyone spilled into different rooms — in part because there were simply not enough chairs at the dining room table and in part because the apartment’s open layout makes the kitchen, dining area, and living room all adjacent to each other, facilitating such accommodations. A sweet couple who live in a nearby building, then, sat on the couch in the living room and enjoyed some empanadas and arroz con gandules. Their seven-year-old daughter and my best friend’s godson gobbled down pork chops and mac ‘n’ cheese at the table. Also in attendance was a formerly homeless friend who is currently getting back on his feet after a series of unfortunate mishaps, including some debilitating health issues. After savoring my husband’s breaded pork chops, he was so impressed that he asked for two slices of bread so that he could make a pork chop sandwich! No matter where they were sitting, everyone was engaging, talking, laughing, and eating.

 Check out some of those gorgeous smiling faces:

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maelo-eating

The experience was a beautiful reminder of the sense of community that arises when people enjoy a meal together. There was a palpable sense of joy and gratitude in the air. In fact, everyone was helping to clear the table at the end of the evening, offering to take out the trash, wipe up tables, or wash dishes and pans.

Sometimes, we forget how the most basic elements of our daily lives  — among them the simple act of having a nutritious meal — are luxuries to other human beings. Other times, we think of hunger as something that happens elsewhere, in a far-off country, not in the so-called Land of Plenty. But, much like we may have encountered tough times when our kitchen cabinets looked harrowingly empty, others in our own communities might be facing this situation at the present time. And, if we just come together, cook together, eat together, we can make sure that everyone is fed, that everyone is healthy. Small endeavors, like sharing a meal, can make an enormous impact on the lives of others. And, if we do these often enough, we can create stronger communities and, moreover, stronger bonds between human beings. Not only will be doing our part to combat child hunger, but we’ll be teaching our children kindness and solidarity.

And that is precisely what I see when I look at my son, shown below with me, who was readily sharing the food on his plates with the other kids present.

me-and-gio

Want to do your part to eradicate child hunger? Then visit ProjectSunlight.us and find out how you can be proactive and be the change you wish to se.

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