Hunger is Not a Game: Can Social Media Help End Poverty?

by Ken Mueller on April 8, 2013 · 8 comments

English: asparagus

I’m hungry. In fact, as I write this, I might even want to tell you I’m starved. Goodness knows how many times those words have left my lips over my 51 years here on earth.

I’m starved!

I’m sure I said it a lot more when I was a kid, coming through the door after school:

“Mom, what’s for dinner? I’m starving!”

Often to be met by the worst words a younger version of me could possibly hear:

“We’re having such and such with asparagus (or stewed tomatoes)”

Hearing certain vegetable mentioned was enough to send me into a depression and take my appetite away. Ick. Hated those things. Still do. Suddenly, I wasn’t so starved anymore. And I’m sure during those meals I suddenly went from “starved” to “I’m not very hungry” in no time.

I used to be a picky eater. Not so much anymore. In fact, I now suffer from the opposite problem. I like to eat TOO much and I despise leaving any food on my plate. I hate to see anyone leave food behind on their plates. The waste really bothers me. I hate seeing food get thrown out.

I often think about how much food gets tossed into the trash at restaurants, not mention in our homes. Food comes in abundance to most of us, and we think nothing of throwing quite a bit away. Scraps, we call them.

But no matter how many times I’ve uttered the words, “I’m hungry” or even, “I’m starved,” I’ve never truly experienced either hunger or starvation. About the longest I’ve ever gone without food is about 30 hours, and those rare events were either by choice or sickness. And the possibility of food has always been not much more than a few feet away from me. I’ve never had to worry about the source of my next meal.

If you are my friend on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know I love food. I think nothing of talking about food, or posting pictures of food, either from my home or some restaurant.

I wonder what Facebook would look like for those who have access but don’t have food. Pictures of empty plates? Checking in to the local soup kitchens on Foursquare? And what would they think of all of the pictures of food and excess that we post? Or checking in to fancy restaurants? Makes me think about things quite a bit.

But what if I was really hungry? What if things got so bad that perhaps I didnt’ know how I would find my next meal? What if all of a sudden circumstances made it that my family of five was left without a home and no idea how to get a meal? I still have the safety net of an extended family, and I’m confident that my online community of Facebook and Twitter would step up to the plate to help me. I’ve seen it happen over and over again; our online communities coming together to support those in need. Social media’s got my back.

But that’s not the case for a good sized segment of our population. Even if they are on Facebook, chances are that most of their online friends are in the same boat they are, unable to help one another out.

Of course I have limited income. By world standards I’m well off, but I can’t just give all my money away, as I need to support my family, pay rent, bills, and the like. Oh, I do give. I love supporting local and global nonprofits financially. But social media gives us many more opportunities to help out.

I can turn over my blog post to a good cause, like I have today as part of the Food Bloggers Against Hunger campaign. More than 200 bloggers, most of whom blog regularly about food and eating. We all can use our online presence to share and promote the causes we believe are important. Some may say that merely sharing about the work and needs of nonprofits battling hunger and poverty isn’t enough. It’s just a form of  “slacktivism,” but awareness is key. By making others aware, we are opening up new opportunities for giving and sharing. This post is an example of that. I learned about the cause because of Facebook. I then shared, and as a result, two of my clients jumped on board, as well as a few friends.

We have the opportunity to speak up for those who might not be able to speak up for themselves.

That’s why I love working with clients like Water Street Ministries, which is doing very tangible things to address the problems of hunger and poverty right here in my community.

It’s why I love working with clients like Character’s Pub, a restaurant that seeks to promote healthy eating while giving back to the community. In today’s post, Chef /Owner Meghan Young talks about not letting any food go to waste, while offering her recipe for veggie burgers.

It’s why I love clients like Lori Kerr, a personal chef who owns Custom Cuisine. Today she blogs about her experience this past week as she and her husband went three days, feeding themselves on just $4 per day per person. That’s the amount the average person on food stamps has to spend: $4 a day!

I have no recipes that those in poverty can use to make ends meet. I’m not that good in the kitchen. But I do have a recipe that might just help end poverty here in the U.S., and it’s a recipe of which we all can be a part: our online power.

Not only do we have the power to give, but we have the power to drive awareness and share.

  • With the Internet, it’s never been easier to petition our government officials on all levels to do the right thing.
  • With the Internet, it’s never been easier to give. No envelopes. No stamps. Just a few clicks.
  • With the Internet, it’s never been easier to get educated, and help educate others, as to the very real problem of poverty.
  • With the Internet, it’s never been easier to use our powerful word of mouth to tell others about ways they can help.
  • With the Internet, it’s never been easier to advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves.

Take some time to watch this trailer for the documentary, A Place at the Table, and consider viewing the entire film.


And make a concerted effort to live and give more intentionally. Be willing to give over at least a portion of your social presence to the causes that matter to you.

What will you do, both online and in your own neighborhood, to help alleviate hunger and poverty? Which organizations do you support?


Great post, Ken. It's awesome if people can help directly with their time, talent, and resources. But even slacktivism increases awareness of issues. Some people may not have time/talent...but they do have resources to apply if they simply KNEW about the cause and how to contribute.


You have made a great contribution today. Thank you!


Excellent points, Ken! Here in North Florida, our oyster industry has been devastated -- I heard of families being told to tell their kids to drink a glass of water at night to not be so hungry. It's real, and it's just down the road, at a place known by outsiders for sun, fun, and natural beauty. There's nothing beautiful about an 8 year old arriving at school with an empty stomach, ill-equipped to learn and be attentive. I contribute items to our church's food pantry, but as I discussed in my post, I often wonder how far that can of tuna will go or if the kid is thinking, "just once I'd like a hamburger or a warm chicken nugget or .... [ insert something kid friendly yet nutritious and tasty here ].  And although these posts are about hunger in America, my visit to Guatemala in 2011 showed me how everything is interconnected -- what our food industry is doing that makes it even harder for people in countries like that to subsist. But that's a topic for a different campaign I guess! Thank you again for helping me get involved and getting to wear a "food blogger" hat for a day!


All great points - thanks for sharing. Up here in Maine we have a very active "share our strength" program. Hunger is something we never think of on a local basis - unless we are reminded. 



KenMueller moderator

@BurgessAdv Thanks, David. That's why I think awareness is so key. Most of us need to be reminded. Regularly.

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