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A Reflection on Giving More Than Just Our Leftovers To Those Who Experience Hunger 

The youth that you work with probably know hunger exists in the world. They may even feel called to do something about it, but don’t know where to start. 

That is understandable. Ending global hunger is complex. Overwhelming, even. There are approximately 7.5 billion people in the world today. 690 million of those are experiencing hunger. Probably more, with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As complex as solving the issue of global hunger is, by working together as God’s people, we can take real actions that can have an impact. 

Jesus was conscientious when it came to wasting food. We’ve all heard the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes with only five loaves of bread and two fish. I’ve always wondered what that looked like in real-time. After everyone has their fill, Jesus instructs his disciples to, “…gather up the leftovers, that nothing may be lost” (ESV, John 6:12). Why do you think he gave those instructions and said what he said? 

In the Philippines, many people have resorted to eating ‘Pagpag’ – leftover food from restaurants that has been scavenged from garbage and dump sites, recooked, and eaten. This is a response to the challenges of hunger linked to poverty, and the broader issues that contribute towards hunger. 

In February 2018, I traveled to Malawi with Canadian Foodgrains Bank. The trip was designed as a “learning tour” meaning that the group from Canada was there to better understand hunger. One of the most memorable aspects of the trip was the three nights that we spent in the homes of local families.  

At one point, I was faced with an awkward decision as I sat in the middle room of the mud home of my homestay family. They had just prepared our evening meal and served it on a plate. There wasn’t anything out of the norm on the plate – chicken, relish, and “nsima” (two baseball-sized balls made of maize). I wasn’t a fan of the nsima but managed to eat it all. Without asking, they plopped two more balls of maize onto my plate. What do I do? Do I reject this filler food, clearly made with love? Do I force down this tasteless, doughy ball? Not wanting to waste the food, I quickly asked my translator to share the meal with me – which, he graciously did. Crisis diverted. 

But the story that I usually tell about my trip is more than what I did with my leftovers at that meal. It is about how my homestay family had experienced severe hunger and malnutrition over the years. With the support of the Foodgrains Bank, they managed to improve their access to food and improve their nutrition. They participated in community trainings in how to manage their soils which are increasingly dry because of climate change, how to increase crop diversity and amount harvested, and how to improve young their children’s nutrition. 

Knowing this, how could I not make the effort to eat all of what was offered to me?

Rooted in scripture, the Foodgrains Bank and its members seek to live out the many teachings in scripture that speak to justice for the poor, advocating for the oppressed, and loving our neighbour. 

Being a part of the Foodgrains Bank network, I have been able to learn about the issues that contribute toward global hunger – locally and globally. This has helped me better understand what role I can play in ending hunger. Since the learning tour, I have spoken with my church community about hunger globally and in my own community. I have also met with several members of Parliament to highlight the importance of the funds that the Canadian government contributes to projects like the one that I visited in Malawi. 

I have also been able to see first-hand how I am but one of the many dedicated people from across Canada who come together and make real impact in the lives of millions around the world. 

Will you join us?


I encourage you to ask the youth in your group “How can we get involved in the work to end hunger, in a way that honours God and His creation, beyond providing our leftovers?” 

To explore this question with your youth group, I encourage you to check out the other resources from the Foodgrains Bank on this site. I would also recommend that you download the Hunger for Justice, learning and reflection guide for youth groups.

You can download the guide here:

You can also access the on demand recording of a webinar we did where you’ll be introduced to the work that Christian communities across Canada are doing through the Foodgrains Bank to support communities around the world who experience hunger. You’ll also receive a walkthrough of the learning and reflection guide for youth groups, which offers step-by-step ideas that you can use to inspire students to learn more about global hunger and help them process the practical steps they can take. Responding to hunger starts with giving, praying, learning, and advocating–all of which will be covered through this guide that you can use in your ministry starting this week.

Access the on demand recording HERE.

Alan Cristales currently works as the International Field Operator for Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM). Through his role with NCM, he sits on the Board of Directors of Canadian Foodgrains Bank. Alan is also a Junior Pastor of the Spanish Church of the Nazarene in Brampton, Ontario. He is inspired by the Gospels to work to relieve poverty and to transform lives and communities in Canada and abroad.  

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