Column: A different kind of March madness

At St. Peter’s Church, the month of March comes around and we all know what that means — it’s Minnesota FoodShare Month! The big blue bucket is set out, the posters go up and we lay plans for some serious fun collecting food for families around us who are in need of food support.

Each year we do something different. One year, everybody brought one of the “5 Most Wanted” items each week — peanut butter, canned meat, cooking oils, canned fruits and canned vegetables. And each week, when the children collected the food brought by church members and friends, one particular individual spoke up, saying, “I’ll match that!” and our collection of jars or cans doubled. Another year we created a daily calendar for money donations — a penny for every inch tall you stood one day, a dollar for each box of cereal on your shelves.

Nancy Swanson
Nancy Swanson

This year it’s four different collections for four different weeks. I invite you to participate.

Week One — Clear out your cupboards: Pull out those food items that you have one too many of or won’t get to eat before it expires or decided you don’t like. Find a MN Foodshare public collection site (St. Peter’s is one) and drop off the food you find to give.

Week Two — Cost of Coffee: Spend a little less on coffee (or other beverage of your choice). Make coffee at home or drink water or just skip it once or twice this week and donate the difference. $5 for a fancy cupful, $7 for a craft beer or even a $2 pop at the convenience store – it adds up! Give that amount to a local program that feeds people (whether through a free meal or through supplying them with foodstuffs).

Week Three — Price of Pizza: Instead of ordering out, finish up your leftovers that would otherwise go bad or cook something together as a family and donate the cost of a meal out to Valley Outreach.

Week Four – Grateful for Goodies: Think about the good treats and companionship you enjoy with your daily coffee group or monthly social group. What’s it worth to you? Make a donation in honor of the great goodies and the great conversations you’ve had to your local foodshelf.

What is it that’s so satisfying about giving like this? Maybe it’s the recognition of the enjoyment we get from eating every day. Maybe it’s a concern that children, youth and older adults get good, nutritious, well-rounded meals. Maybe it’s the knowledge that you’ve got enough — really, more than enough — right now and can make a difference in someone else’s life. Maybe it’s the simple concern that no one goes hungry today.

March “madness” is more than just basketball — it’s MN FoodShare Month! Make it a marathon, a Lenten discipline, a contest with just yourself or one that includes with others. Get creative — have fun with it! And feel the satisfaction from piles of jars and bottles and pennies and dollars and the joy that comes from generosity. It really is the very best kind of satisfaction you can find.

Nancy Swanson is pastor of St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Stillwater.