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Hunger takes no holidays

Boxing Day food for thought

My family is spoiled. As I type this, nine of us are on vacation in Maui. When explaining there would be no gift-giving on this trip, that the trip IS the gift, my 11-year-old cocked his head with furrowed brow. That face prompted a good convo that ended with him saying “good point.”

I have a point to make today after a bit of an epiphany at a recent charity event.

My good friend Mark Brand, of A Better Life Foundation, puts on an event called “The Greasy Spoon Diner” at his restaurant on the Downtown East Side - Save On Meats. (If you’ve ever been on Hastings Street where Gastown becomes the DTES you’re familiar with the massive neon sign featuring pigs).

This is our second Greasy Spoon, there have been 46 of them.

The events are amazing. Chefs from all over volunteer to make a five-course meal featuring kicked up “diner food” — with lovely cocktail pairings — for a flat fee. 100% of the proceeds go toward feeding more than 800 people living in poverty on the DTES.

We ate and drank in the name of helping those who might only get that one meal per day.

There, I learned something stunning, yet rather obvious in hindsight. One of the organizers, Ash, was giving a summary about where our donations were going, and why.

He said, “We hope to raise $75,000 here tonight, as that covers the hard costs of feeding 800 people each day through January and February, a window where we get almost no donations at all.”

He went on to thank, and explain, gratitude for the generosity of supporters during holiday seasons – how the money really does help so many.

And yet, the reality of the months after.

During the holidays, many people give a little, or a lot. But once our bills start to roll in, we tighten purse strings. During that time, people are still hungry.

The mantra of A Better Life Foundation is “Being Hungry Sucks.” I can honestly say that I have no real idea what being hungry is like. I’ve lived paycheque to paycheque, sure, but I always found a way to eat. That night, I truly considered what it might be like to NOT eat regularly. To be cold. To be wet.

I’ve seen the proceeds of this charity at work. I’ve seen Mark and his Save-On-Meats staff set up at Oppenheimer Park on a sunny summer’s day and feed folks NONSTOP from morning til night, for free.

It’s respectful, it’s orderly, it’s a neighbourhood of caring.

On this Boxing Day, while we are all staring at the pile of torn paper and recycling, and a veritable mountain of generosity from friends and family, let’s take a moment to consider the tightness of January and February for those living with so much less.

Maybe find a way to go online and check out the token program Mark has set up.

On any day, it feels good to give. During the holidays, it feels great. But when the need is greatest?

That’s when it feels right.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who has spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.