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Resolve to make a difference in 2012

One of the more popular New Year’s resolutions, even for those of us who don’t make New Year’s resolutions, is to simplify our lives by cleaning out – giving more to others and keeping less for ourselves. Throughout the holiday season we hear about the contributions people make to their communities, and those stories and the start of a new year inspire us to make changes in our lives.

Hunger is a 365-day-a-year battle, and we need your help. 2012 can be the year that you make a difference in measurable and immeasurable ways. Here are a few starting places:

Resolve to give year-round:  money, food, time, talent. Donate money once a month rather than once a year to your favorite hunger-fighting organization. Save your change and put it in a jar earmarked for your local pantry. Ask your pantry for their “top 10 foods” list, pick one day each month and buy an item in bulk to donate. Think about the non-financial gifts you can make, even if you have limited time; perhaps your pantry needs someone to update their website, look up recipes, or make signs. Make a gift to Good Shepherd Food Bank instead of a present for the couple who has everything.

Resolve to include your friends, family, and co-workers in the fight against hunger. Instead of going out to dinner with friends, have a potluck dinner and donate the money you would have spent. Ask your co-workers to participate in an “off-season” food drive at the office. Recommend that your friends “like” Good Shepherd Food Bank on Facebook to keep up-to-date with important hunger-fighting information and events. Encourage your kids to hold a food drive at school or in the neighborhood.

Resolve to educate yourself on poverty and hunger issues. Read “Nickeled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” by Barbara Ehrenreich or “Made for You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home” by Maine author Caitlin Shetterly to get first-person accounts of minimum-wage earning and the impact of this seemingly never-ending recession. Visit the Good Shepherd Food Bank website to link up with events and articles that educate. Set a Google Alert for articles featuring hunger relief in Maine to follow our progress across the state.

Resolve to practice compassion, including adopting a new attitude and new language around poverty and hunger and those affected. Be the person in the check-out line who smiles and waits patiently while a mom wrestles with her WIC coupons. Be bold in refuting jokes and comments that belittle the poor. Take a moment to imagine what physical and emotional hunger feels like and how pride-swallowing an experience asking for help can be. Ask your kids how they might feel; imagine facing each day knowing you can’t provide all the food your children need to thrive.

Even if you don’t make New Year’s resolutions, this is the year you can make a difference in the lives of hungry Mainers. This is the year you will inspire others with your words and deeds.

Kathy Helming is the Food Bank’s Field Representative in Southern Maine. She travels York and Cumberland Counties, working directly with food pantries and soup kitchens to aid their programs and help build capacity in Maine’s hunger relief network.