Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Happy Birthday, Eric Carle~We're Doing a Very Hungry Caterpillar Virtual Food Drive to Help Very Hungry Kids! Join Us!!

Thanks to FSPDT, Pleasantest Thing, Pennies of Time, and Rainbows Within Reach for images in collage.
Summer is officially here (for half of the world anyway). For many of us, school was out well before the First Day of Summer/Summer Solstice on June 21st. While summer means beaches, pools and vacation for many families, it also means increased food insecurity for others. Food budgets increase for almost everyone in the summer, and families that rely on free and reduced school lunches struggle with the loss of these much needed meals (many schools also provide breakfast to children as well and for many children, their only meals are the ones they eat at school). For some reason, thoughts of the summer struggle against hunger surged to the forefront of my brain every time I read The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, or overheard Wild Thing reading it to himself or his father or brother (he has the whole book memorized). 

Finally, it came together, that caterpillar who is so very hungry and needs all of those food items in order to become a beautiful butterfly made me think of all of the very hungry children who need access to healthy, regular meals if they are to reach their full potential. 

In the U.S., 21 million children receive free or reduced lunches at school, but only 3 million take advantage of free summer meal programs. What are those other 18 million children eating? How will their food needs be met? These thoughts led me to the idea of a Very Hungry Caterpillar Virtual Food Drive that I decided to kick off on June 25th, Eric Carle's Birthday. I am honoring the birthday of a very beloved children's book author who has brought smiles to so many children's faces by encouraging others to help bring smiles to children's faces themselves by taking steps to help children have access to healthy foods this summer. Here's what we did. 

We took The Very Hungry Caterpillar book with us to the grocery store and did a Hungry Caterpillar Hunt to Fight Hunger -- selecting foods that the caterpillar ate that we then donated to our local food pantry, which accepts fresh produce. Wild Thing had a blast hunting for all of the food and getting creative with food items that needed some adjustment. 

We found: 1 apple, 2 pears, 3 plums, 1 pint of strawberries, 5 oranges (as you can see, he took the fruit part very literally. If he could have taken 4 strawberries out of the pint, he would have), a box of cake mix (aka 1 piece of chocolate cake), 1 jar of peanut butter (aka 1 ice cream cone - I like peanut butter ice cream), 1 cucumber (aka 1 pickle), 2 boxes of macaroni and cheese (aka 1 slice of swiss cheese), 2 boxes of red beans (representing the slice of salami and the sausage -- since the beans were also red and sources of protein, we thought it worked), 1 bag of blow pops (aka 1 lollipop), 1 box of cherry fruit bars (aka 1 piece of cherry pie), 1 box of cupcake mix (aka 1 cupcake) and 1 watermelon. I wish I had gotten a picture of Wild Thing grabbing the big watermelon - he was so excited about it. It was the first thing he grabbed at the store. I thought we were done, but Wild Thing reminded me that the caterpillar eats 1 nice green leaf to feel much better, so we went and got a box of salad mix. Finally, we decided to add a bag of rotini pasta and farfalle pasta since the rotini looked like a caterpillar to Wild Thing and the farfelle pasta looks like butterflies. 

If you get inspired to do your own Hungry Caterpillar Hunt to Fight Hunger and your local food pantry does not accept produce, you could always get canned or dried fruit, cereals that have fruit in them or trail mix to substitute for the fruits the caterpillar eats. I am grateful that our food pantry accepts produce because I know from my own experience in working with low-income children that fresh fruits and vegetables are often very rare items to have at home. 
No Kid Hungry
Another important way you can help families struggling with hunger this summer is to spread the word about free summer meal programs. On the No Kid Hungry website, you can find out what locations near you provide summer meals and learn of other ways to get involved in the fight against hunger this summer, including through donations to the organization (or to your local food pantry). No Kid Hungry (and many food banks) can turn $1 into 10 meals, so your donation can make a really significant difference. Plus, this summer Arby's is matching every donation up to $100,000 for No Kid Hungry. 

Finally because we really do love The Very Hungry Caterpillar at our house, I wanted to also share these great activities, parties, games, printables and more that connect to the book.

For more caterpillar and butterfly fun, plus recipes inspired by the foods in the book, you should also check out my Party Planning-Hungry Caterpillar/Butterfly Pinboard, which I started over a year ago when I was planning Caterpillar's 1st birthday party. The VHC party never happened, but the board continues to grow. Maybe I'll pull off the party someday! 

While I hope you have been inspired to read (or re-read) this beloved children's book, my real hope is that you have been inspired to join me in the fight against hunger. I would love to see the Very Hungry Caterpillar Virtual Food Drive reach communities across the world. I know that Fit Kids Clubhouse will be participating as part of her Summer of Gratitude and House of Hendrix shared with me how they collect fruit for the homeless. I also learned, through this project, about Kaibosh, which is an awesome organization in New Zealand that collects unused food items from restaurants, bakeries, etc. and distributes the food to food banks! I love learning about organizations like these and hearing about the efforts of individuals committed to making a difference in their communities. 

Now, I want to hear from you -- if you have been inspired, please leave a comment or pop over to Facebook and share what you are doing so that there will be no kid hungry this summer. I will be Facebook sharing, tweeting and G+-ing all of your wonderful efforts. Remember, too, that if you cannot donate food or make a donation to an organization, raising awareness/spreading the word is also so important, so please share this post or share the No Kid Hungry link or the link to a food pantry/bank in your area. I also know that many food banks have less volunteers in the summer, so donating your time can make a big difference too. No act of kindness is too small. Thanks so much for reading!

Sharing at: Kid Lit Blog Hop, Tuesday Tots, Mom's Library, Artsy Play WednesdayIt's PlaytimeVery Hungry Caterpillar Linky at Powerful MotheringRead.Explore.Learn, Sharing Saturday, Super Summer SaturdayStress-Free Sunday and The Sunday Showcase!

You might also like:

Moms Fight Hunger Go Orange Blog Hop
Blogging to Fight Hunger
Eric Carle Linky Party


  1. This is such a brilliant ideas and for such a great cause. I think me and my boys will do this too!

  2. What a great link between book and giving

  3. What a great way to raise awareness for a food drive for kids! I love Eric Carle too!

  4. What a great way to celebrate !

  5. This is amazing, Jen! Thanks so much for all the work you do to make the world a better place. I loved reading about your Hungry Caterpillar Hunt to Fight Hunger! Thanks so much for including my post. I shared your awesome post on Sulia http://sulia.com/livingmontessorinow/f/e267c32a-b826-4de7-b296-d9f13535e783/ (and I'm not finished sharing it). :)

  6. Absolutely perfect way to enjoy the book, celebrate the birthday, AND fight hunger! Thank you for sharing the idea. :)

  7. You and your family do such wonderful things to give back to your community. I love your idea of a Hungry Caterpillar food drive. Your children have so many amazing lessons on empathy and giving back.

  8. What a fabulous idea and such a great cause! Yay you! Thanks for linking your great post in the Kid Lit Blog Hop! :)

  9. This is such a thoughtful idea. You are so compassionate and considerate. I love how you tied this all in with The Very Hungry Caterpillar. What a great way for Wild Thing to excited about it all. Lovely round up of Eric Carle posts too! Thanks for sharing with us, and for raising awareness.

  10. I absolutely love this idea! Thank you for sharing it with Read.Explore.Learn. link up!

  11. What a great idea!! I just shared it with the children's librarian at our public library to see if she will host a drive. Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!

  12. Thank you for such a great idea! I used this as a starting point for a service project with my kiddos: http://www.africatoamerica.org/2/post/2013/09/train-up-a-child-challenge-month-three.html

  13. Absolutely love this!

    Stopping in from the KBN Best of 2013 to pin this!

  14. I teach at a Catholic School. We were looking for a Lenten Service project and I think this will be a great one for us to use as we incorporate it into our religion class and relate it to our Hungry Caterpillar book activities. Thank you for a great idea! We will donate to our local Stew Pot.