Rant

Eat So They Can

While I was doing some research on my latest idea for something to mock on a t-shirt, I came across Eat So They Can (ESTC).

Eat So They Can is an international fundraiser that invites citizens of the world to participate in what is collectively one huge dinner party; where something as simple as sharing a meal with friends can help stop child poverty.

So… Eat So They Can is an annual fund-raising event to raise money to feed starving children (no my next t-shirt will not mock starving children). I think raising money to feed starving children is a noble cause, but do they not see the sick irony that they are hosting dinner parties to raise money for starving children?!?! How do you tell the starving children where the money came from? “Well, all over the world people got together with friends and family, stuffed their faces with more freshly cooked food than you have seen in your lifetime, and dropped some money in a box. Enjoy your rice, beans, and sugar.”

In 2007 Eat So They Can raised $37,000, and fed just under 3000 children. That is all well and good, but I have a few questions. How much more food could have been bought if the money spent on the dinner parties was instead donated to buy food? Why is this only an annual event? Couldn’t more be done if parties were hosted more often? Why is there a grand prize drawing for a luck party host, and why isn’t the money for that grand prize trip instead spent on food for children? Is this really an event to raise money for starving children, or is this an event so you can feel good about yourself because you raised money for starving children? How can I tell if their motives are pure if there are selfish questions in their FAQ like “Does the host contribute a donation as well, or just the guests?”, “What makes me eligible for the Grand Prize?”, and “As a host, can the GVN Foundation reimburse me for money I spent to host the party?”

I hate to be critical of what seems to be a good cause, but something just rubbed me wrong. Give money to feed children because you care, not because of “clever” marketing, and not to make you feel good about yourself. Do not give because people tell you we can stop global hunger/poverty. Collectively billions of dollars are given every year to stop global hunger and poverty and it still exists today. Give because your heart hurts for that child that goes to sleep night after night with an empty stomach, and as if it were your own child you would do whatever you were able to do so they could sleep in peace for at least one night. Most importantly give to a charity that will feed them physically and spiritually.

References:

http://www.eatsotheycan.org/about/estc.php

http://www.eatsotheycan.org/about/2007distribution.php

http://www.eatsotheycan.org/faq/

One Comment

  1. Hi, My name is Eliza and I’ve been working as an Eat So They Can Host Mentor as well as the Grants Coordinator for the campaign for the last couple of years. First of all, thank you for sharing your thoughts about our Eat So They Can campaign. It’s always important to get feedback and to know how others perceive our work.

    You raised a few questions in your post which I would like to address here:

    – How much more food could have been bought if the money spent on the dinner parties was instead donated to buy food?

    I understand what you are trying to say here but the goal of ESTC is to provide a positive campaign and to move away from the idea of making people donate out of guilt. We believe it is good to celebrate what we have and to focus on action. Check out this recent blogpost from one of our supporters who explains this idea really well: http://changents.com/There-is-Justice-In-Celebrating

    Another point to make here is that our campaign is about more than just raising money. A central goal of ESTC is also to raise awareness about poverty amongst thousands of people around the world and to show people how easy it is to step up and make a difference. We believe that creating awareness is an essential part of the movement to end poverty. You’ll find that many other non-profits recognize the importance of advocacy as well, such as Global Poverty Project and Invisible Children.

    – Why is this only an annual event?

    The official ESTC weekend takes place to coincide with World Food Day and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The reason that we have an ‘official’ weekend is that we want to create the sense of an international community of people all coming together to fight poverty. We also know that our hosts enjoy the feeling that hundreds of other ESTC events are taking place around the world at the same time as theirs. Having said this, we do of course understand that our hosts have lives and commitments, and you are welcome to host an event at any time of the year.

    – Why is there a grand prize drawing for a luck party host, and why isn’t the money for that grand prize trip instead spent on food for children?

    We offer one grand prize trip each year to one of our hosts for two key reasons:
    a) Advocacy and credibility – We really encourage our hosts to spread awareness about how the majority of the world actually lives. We encourage this through giving our hosts a DVD to show at their event which includes footage from our distribution trip. By having a host on the distribution trip and in our DVD this adds credibility to our campaign and also helps the guests to relate to the experience.

    b) Funds – To be entered into the Grand Prize Draw, hosts have to raise $500 or more. Having this goal helps to motivate and encourage some of our hosts.

    – Is this really an event to raise money for starving children, or is this an event so you can feel good about yourself because you raised money for starving children?

    It is about:
    a) empowering people around the world to make a difference by giving them a way to incorporate donating/fundraising into their life.
    b) raising money for children and women in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
    c) raising awareness amongst people from all countries and backgrounds about those living in poverty.

    – How can I tell if their motives are pure if there are selfish questions in their FAQ like “Does the host contribute a donation as well, or just the guests?”, “What makes me eligible for the Grand Prize?”, and “As a host, can the GVN Foundation reimburse me for money I spent to host the party?”

    Research into volunteering shows that although altruistic and instrumental motives are often considered separately, the majority of volunteers do not systematically distinguish between the two (Dekker & Halman 2003). For example, Beck and Beck-Gernsheim (2002) argue that “the real surprise is that self-assertion, enjoying oneself and caring for others are not mutually exclusive; they are mutually inclusive and strengthen and enrich one another” (p. 160). Eat So They Can takes this into consideration – our goal is to offer a positive and rewarding way to incorporate helping others into your lifestyle.

    References:

    Dekker, P. & Halman, L. 2003, ‘Volunteering and values: An introduction’ pp. 1-16 in P.Dekker & L. Halman The Values of Volunteering: Cross-cultural perspectives, Kluwer Academic, New York

    Beck, E. & Beck-Gernsheim, E. 2002, Individualization, Sage Publications, London

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