From left: Donald Jackson, Ernest Tubbs, and Tavi Gargano, of Vocational Guidance Services, in Cleveland, OH/Photo courtesy VGS.

My partner in kitchen tools, Mac Dalton, and I have for years relied on a local Cleveland nonprofit, Vocational Guidance Services (VGS), to ship our tools. VGS has for decades employed those who can’t otherwise find work—the disabled, people who have been homeless, people who are recently out of jail. In other words, VGS is a valuable part of our community and Mac and I put a strain on them with our recent sales, so I want to thank them publicly for their good work. Ottavio Gargano, along with Bernie Nenadovich and Ernie Tubbs, and especially all the good people who fulfill our orders, thank you for your work. You make my beloved city of Cleveland a better place.

“The More That I Give, the More That I Have”: Where to Donate During the Holidays (and ever after)

Thinking about VGS makes me think about ways I can do more to give back as a way of saying thanks for my good fortune. Because I make my living in the food world, I give to hunger relief programs. Two programs that are highly recommended are The Hunger Project, for global hunger relief, and One Acre Fund, which focuses specifically on farmers in Africa. Click on the links and see if what they do is meaningful to you. If it is, send some love.

These were recommended to me by Charlie Bresler, who runs The Life You Can Save, founded by Peter Singer, a writer-philosopher I admire (despite the vegan business). It’s a foundation that wants to eradicate world poverty and the unnecessary pain and death that results from it. But it’s also an organization that simply asks that more of us who live comfortably recognize that giving is part of living ethically, as much a part of living an ethical life as is not lying and stealing, or helping your neighbor or a stranger in need, or working to strengthen your immediate community. (Watch Stephen Colbert grapple with Singer’s suggestions.) They’ve made a great video—watch people giving away free money; very funny, but what it says about how you can be more happy is the truth.

If giving isn’t already something you regularly do, Singer asks that you give just 1% of your income—preferably more, but let’s just get started with that tiny 1%, he says.

To donate to your local community, do some research. Here in Cleveland, you can donate to The Hunger Network, working to reduce hunger in Greater Cleveland. To donate to our Vocational Guidance Services, click here. I asked Mario Batali who he’d recommend. He said the Food Food Bank for New York City, and also his own hunger prevention efforts, The Mario Batali Foundation. Mark Maynard-Parisi, of Blue Smoke in NYC, says that his company, Union Square Hospitality Group, actively supports, among others, City Harvest locally, and Share Our Strength, a national hunger-prevention organization focusing on making sure kids get enough to eat.

Non-food-related gifts: Give gifts on behalf of people you love. At the recommendation of New York Times reporter and op-ed columnist, Nicholas Kristof, I’m giving to the Afghan Institute of Learning for its work in educating women, which will surely do more to help that country than bombs. He also recommends the Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention program, New York–based and spreading to many other states, which recognizes that pregnancy prevention is a fundamental link in cutting cycles of poverty, and noting that you can, for $50, help fund a student’s college education as part of its financial literacy component.

The words in bold above are of course from Romeo and Juliet, Juliet’s remark on her love for Romeo: “The more I give to thee, the more I have….” As this is a holiday that for me, is about the celebration of love and of peace, these are words to remember, for they are true of all that we give.

Happy Holidays to all.

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3 Wonderful responses to “Holiday Giving: “The More That I Give…””

  • Paul Kobulnicky

    To help local people get enough to eat just search the web for “food bank {your city, county or state}” and you will easily get listings.

    • Dean

      A great suggestion. Many of the local food banks operate with minimal overhead and make really good use of the donations they receive and put the money directly to use feeding those in need. In addition to giving money, donating your time and energy helps both the giver and the receiver.

  • Natalie Luffer Sztern

    To those in Montreal, give to Sun Youth whatever you can donate. Each year I do a complete food order including Turkey and hand deliver it to Sun Youth – they give to all the needy locally and have inspired many of their past recipients to become workers at the center. Give Ernie a call -