Halloween is coming! While your kids are collecting candy to binge on, here are five ways they can also help feed the hungry.
1. Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF
UNICEF collection boxes have been part of the trick-or-treating scene since 1950. UNICEF has a Trick-or-Treat website describing the program, and showing its impact over six decades. Since 1950, kids have raised more than $170 million to support UNICEF; in 2012 alone, kids raised $3.2 million! In turn, UNICEF saves and improves kids' lives around the world, providing improved nutrition and water, health care, education, and more.
Although it's too late to order a UNICEF box by mail, you can make your own (printable PDF), or even hold a fundraising party—you just send in the money (printable PDF) after collecting it. For more on the program, check out their resources page and start fundraising!
For a healthy dose of nostalgia, check out this video explaining the 60-year history of the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF program:
And if you're a K-6 teacher, you can get in on the UNICEF Trick-or-Treat School Challenge, which features cash grants for your classroom and teacher trips overseas.
2. We Scare Hunger
We Scare Hunger is an initiative of Free the Children. Kids in North America and the U.K. collect canned goods and other non-perishable food, then donate them to local food banks to help people in their communities. You can sign up to participate, either as an individual or a group. For more resources like lesson plans and how-to guides, visit this page and scroll down to the "We Scare Hunger Resources" section, then select your country.
And here's a brief video from their drive in 2009, back when the program was called "Halloween for Hunger":
3. Donate to Your Local Food Bank
Many communities organize food drives around Halloween. In Detroit, one family collects food every Halloween to support their local food bank. To find your local food bank, use Feeding America's Food Bank Locator and donate food or cash on your own (cash is often a much more effective donation; food banks can then buy food in bulk). You can also check out your local newspaper to find events in your area.
I consulted the Oregon Food Bank (my local food bank) about effective strategies for giving during the Halloween season. A staffer suggested that younger kids may have trouble connecting the concept of a monetary donation with the food it can buy. One strategy to connect those concepts is to put aside one coin (penny, nickel, dime, or quarter) for each piece of candy the child receives in his or her bag during trick-or-treating. Counting these coins out as a "One for me, one for you" donation after the trick-or-treating session, and then having an adult make the donation, can be a meaningful way to help kids make this connection between giving and receiving. (Again, you can locate a local food bank through Feeding America.)
4. Play Free Rice
Although it's not specifically Halloween-themed, the Free Rice game is both a vocabulary builder and a way to donate food through the World Food Programme. In the seven-year history of the site, Free Rice has donated 98 billion grains of rice, and keeps a running tally of grains donated per month, year, and day.
5. Donate to Fight Malnutrition
While Halloween is a time of abudance for many kids, it's also a moment to reflect on the problem of malnutrition around the world. Getting proper nutrition to young children is crucial in ensuring a healthy life, and there are lots of things we can do about it. As a parent, a simple way to help is to donate animals through Heifer International. Heifer's mission is to end hunger and poverty, and they work by giving livestock (think cows, chickens, and so on) along with training for farmers to make the most of these animals. You can give a gift as a family, and even pick your favorite animal(s) to give. (Some are surprisingly inexpensive, such as the flock of ducks for $20). Bonus Halloween tip: if you need a last-minute costume idea, why not go as an animal—and then donate that animal to someone in need?
Here's friend of mental_floss Alton Brown explaining how Heifer International works: