Is this really helping the poor?

I recently spent a few hours as a volunteer putting together packaged meals for the poor.

Essentially putting rice, soy, and some vitamins in a plastic bag and labeling it.

The condition of this were terrible. It was 103 F out and in a tent with 100+ volunteers that magnified the heat noise and dust. After 2 hours of this I felt sick with the dust and heat and had to go home to get out of this heat. (I had more water than one can imagine but it only helped marginally).

There was probably a dozen or so violations of any occupational health and safety acts with this

The group I was involved with had the goal of making 1 000 000 of these meals (We got to 650 000)

I had one of these meals and it was subsistence at best. (The military Ready to Eat are much better than these).

The plan is to distribute these meals (mostly to African countries) that are already over populated and impoverished.

By providing these meals for free, as good as it feels, are we making this poverty even worse by creating a dependence on these meals and as a way to control the populations in these impovrished countries?

My guess is that the answer is “it depends”.
Are these meals being provided alone or in the context of better education, help with acquiring other needed things (like clean drinking water maybe) or help with local resource development or training in better farming practices, things like that. If that is the context of giving out these meals, then it is a hand up. If the meals are just being given then it is merely a hand out and may or may not make things worse in the longer term.

I’m assuming you had never done this before, and were quite likely chaperoning teenagers? There was a similar program in my town today (not quite as hot, however) and I refuse to participate in things like this, because so many of them are shipped to war-torn and refugee areas, where they usually get diverted to the people who are oppressing them. In addition, they are designed to be mixed with water and heated up, which isn’t going to do anybody any good if they don’t have clean water.


Never did it before (nor will I again) and you are correct, they need to be heated up and used with clean water.


I’m not sure if this is a parody post. There are something like 65 million refugees worldwide. These are people that have been displaced from their homes. Right this minute they need to eat. Better education and farming practices are great, But they are hungry right now. Clean water can be delivered by the truckload at the same time the food is delivered.

You* are* joking about the conditions you spent two hours in, right?

Before I get too fired up, what am I missing?
Are you trying to bait someone or something?

Except this only says for poor African countries and nothing about refugees. My presumption was that it was for impoverished people who were still in their homes, though admittedly, we don’t know that.

I do think that there’s short and long-term issues. As the quote goes “people don’t eat in the long-term, they eat every day” but as others mention, this aid often doesn’t get to the people who need it. Even more awkwardly, short-term help can cause long-term problems. Very cheap or free food can lead to the farmers in the effected regions being unable to sell their own crop (at a price they breakeven) and therefore put them into (worse) poverty themselves. If they went into debt to buy seed, etc., then they could even lose their farms. Clothes are similar, though at least no one is starving without them in the short term. Then there’s when groups here send the teens and materials over to build houses/schools - oftentimes it’d be much better for region being gifted to send money (and probably a supervisor to make sure it goes where needed), and buy materials locally and hire locals to build those houses. That gives the people there work and income and that’s often cheaper than sending large groups, so more can go into the charity.

I don’t disagree with any of that.
Right now, in Nigeria, almost 2 million people have been displaced fleeing Boko Haram violence. That is one one many conflicts going on in Africa. While the argument that providing free food could hurt local farmers has some validity, we are talking about subsistence rations here. Not something that is really effecting the local economy.
I still think the OP was joking.

Fly over the third world and throw money out of an airplane. All that wealth will very quickly find its way into the hands of private or corporate interests, who will use it to better their own lifestyle, not that of the citizenry. A man who picks up the money will eat for a day, but nothing will be done to redress the circumstances that enforce the poverty.

Joking in what way?

Complaining that he spent two whole hours outside, without air conditioning, in dusty conditions. Even though, he may have helped 650,000 people not die for one more day.

What am I missing here??? This must be some kind of whoosh.

You guys are playing with me. I’m bowing out.

I don’t.

Want to help displaced people, whether it’s due to natural or man-made disasters? Send money to an established organization that does this, whether it’s Operation Smile, Doctors Without Borders, Salvation Army, Red Cross, etc. Those organizations know where to get the things they need to the people who need them, and unfortunately, also when to get out if things get too dangerous.

Or, if you wish to think locally, donate to a shelter or a food pantry.

After the 2004 tsunami, I saw several references to organizations needing to obtain foods that would be familiar to people in those areas, and some people said, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” :mad: What if you’re Muslim and would starve before eating pork products, or you are a staunch Hindu and have never tasted animal food since you were weaned from the breast, or just plain old might not recognize certain Western foods as food in the first place?

No, I was not. I wish I was.


SSgenius, why were you doing this? I’m assuming you saw a thing on TV or in the newspaper, and wanted to help out, or were fulfilling some kind of community service obligation?


Another issue that could arise would be suitable containers for cooking the food, and fuel to cook it in the first place.

Is your concern about giving a man a fish, versus teaching him to fish? That’s my reading of the question, and forgive me if I read wrong and answer badly.

In cases of widespread hunger, many people already know how to fish. Or farm, etc. But political or climate conditions often mean that those skills are useless. If the river is dry, fishing isn’t a solution. If war has forced a family into a refugee camp, no amount of farming expertise fills the baby’s empty belly. If parents have succumbed to an epidemic, hungry children need meals today - life skills training can wait until tomorrow. Bootstrapping only works if you have boots.

That, to me, is the realistic, practical take on feeding the needy. Spiritually, in spite of my agnostic tendency, I hearken back to the Christian message that I still revere - the charitable kindness spoken in red letters in the New Testament. If I accept a supreme being, I sincerely believe that “whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” And I’d much rather offer a sustainable living to the beggar I help, but feeding him today is worthy and right. I am not qualified to judge him based solely on the fact that he’s hungry right now.

I was asked to help by multiple people to fulfill a community service obligation. Thanks

That is exactly what I was getting at. Thanks

Don’t need to know any further details; this is kinda sorta what I suspected.

If they won’t send those packets to Texas, that will speak volumes to me.