Meals on Wheels

5 Big-Hearted Books about Hunger & Poverty in the USA

As America faces record poverty rates and increasing income disparities, it becomes more and more important that we take action in whatever ways we can. Big-Hearted Families has an impressive and diverse list of project ideas to Fight Poverty with your family. Nothing inspires action quite as much as a good story, which is why we've assembled this short list of our favorite books on the subect.

These 5 picture books about hunger and poverty will help you bring up this difficult subject in a thoughtful way. Plus, they are each excellent stories.

Here are some conversation starters to make the most of your experience:

  • How would you feel if you had to rely on a stranger to provide your lunch every day?
  • How does it feel when you are hungry and you have to wait to eat?
  • What are ways we could help those who are hungry?
  • What do you think would be the hardest part of not having a home?
  • If you did not have a place to live, what things would be most important to you? Where would you sleep? How would you stay clean?
  • What things are you grateful for? Are these things you need to live or things that are simply nice to have?

Older readers (8 to 12) may enjoy Along Came a Dog by Meindert DeJong, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, about the unlikely friendship between a little red hen and a homeless dog.

Here are some of my favorite picture books that will start a big-hearted conversation about hunger and poverty:


Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen by DyAnn DiSalvo-Ryan (Morrow.

A young boy who is afraid of homeless people gains a new perspective when he helps his uncle work at the soup kitchen.



Dear Mr. Rosenwald, by Carole Boston Weatherford (Scholastic).

This book is based on actual events in the 1920s, when a philanthropist - the founder of Sears - offered money to African American communities to build schools—but only after they raised money themselves. For an impoverished community, this was a difficult task. This story of how they achieved it is very inspiring.



The Lady in the Boxby Ann McGovern (Turtle Books).

It is wintertime in the city and freezing cold, but not everyone is inside and warm. Ben and his sister Lizzie know that there is a lady who lives outside in a box over a warm air vent. The children worry about the kind-looking lady, and begin sneaking food and clothes out of their apartment for her. Gently told and powerfully illustrated in rich hues, The Lady in the Box deals candidly with the issue of homelessness.



Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting (Clarion Books).

This heart-wrenching yet hopeful book follows a boy and his father through their daily routines as they shelter in an airport, obviously before airline security become so strict. This is book especially fostered a lot of conversation in my house. It perfectly presents the heartbreak of being a homeless child in a non-threatening, non-frightening way.



One Potato, Two Potato by Cynthia DeFelice (Farrar).

For a more whimsical approach to the issues of hunger and sharing, this folktale while entertain and edify any audience. It's a variation on the theme of a magic pot, featuring a community pulling together. It's a new favorite.

Meals on Wheels: Timing is Everything

Ever since my third baby was born, our family volunteering efforts have been mostly confined to the kitchen table (you can find loads of ideas for at home projects right here). I know, I know... he's a year old. It's time for us to move out into the world. And we will. Both of my daughters have been asking repeatedly to deliver for Meals on Wheels again. Though it has been a little over a year since our last deliveries, the girls are full of fond memories of our former route.

Our time will come. We'll probably start that adventure next summer when a) Mr. Toddler is steadier on his feet, b) when his napping schedule no longer runs into the 10:30 to 12 delivery time, and c) when Miss Second Grader can come along to help lead him around.

Until then we'll marvel at our neighbors. My inspiring neighbor just signed up as an on-call MOW family. When the local center is short of delivery people and her family isn't otherwise engaged, she loads up the troupe and off they go.

You can see how much they enjoyed the adventure. There were smiles all around when they returned.

Because their stories are getting my girls excited about the Meals on Wheels mission again, we'll be doing a few at home mow projects. Join us! And share your story!

1) Decorate lunch bags (to carry the MOW dessert - just deliver to the local MOW site for distribution)

2)Decorate Placemats (for the MOW recipients - just deliver to the local MOW site for distribution)

3) Follow Meals on Wheels on FB for updates on other short term needs they may have