Eight books to feed the soul this World Hunger Day
Published on: 28 May 2021 Author: Onjali Q. Raúf
BookTrust Writer in Residence Onjali Q. Raúf shares some of her favourite books to help us think about food, hunger, and ways of feeding communities this World Hunger Day.
Illustration from It's A No-Money Day by Kate Milner
“Political affiliations aside, can we not all agree that no child should be going to bed hungry?.”
― Marcus Rashford
Friday 28 May 2021 marks World Hunger Day in the UK: a day which in so many ways, feels as if it should not exist. Especially not in a world in which millions of tonnes of food are destroyed daily, whilst millions of people go hungry.
Food poverty is, tragically, nothing new. From the biblical sharing of two fish and five loaves to feed the 5000, to the ‘more please’ of Dickens’ Oliver Twist, to little Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sniffing the chocolate-scented air to stave off hunger pangs, food poverty is ever-present in stories throughout history. It will always be a sad fact that wherever peoples and communities are struggling in financial poverty - whether that be as a result of daily living costs far outstripping incomes; rent hikes; debts; broken welfare systems; unemployment; domestic financial abuses; war or climate change - food poverty is there too, rumbling away and breaking down even the strongest stomachs.
A few years ago, words such as ‘food’, ‘poverty’ and ‘hunger’ would not have been readily associated with children and families here in the UK. But this particularly harmful, blinkered and deeply racist concept is finally changing, thanks to the work of s/heroes such as Jack Monroe, Dame Emma Thompson and the legend that is Marcus Rashford. For if Covid-19 has brought forward anything alongside the sanctity of life and love, it is the fact that despite being the sixth richest country in the world, six million adults and at least 1.7 million children are struggling to get the basic foods they need daily, right here in the UK.
To mark this World Hunger Day and thanks to the incredible teams at Trussell Trust HQ and Barrington Stoke, I was gifted the opportunity to drop into the Enfield Food Bank, to see first-hand where all our supermarket donations go, and meet both those working to gift the goods, as well as those needing to receive them.
Photos from North Enfield Food Bank courtesy of Onjali Q. Raúf
It was an experience which left my insides brimming with sadness and hope. One minute, I was speaking with a loving father of five young children, deeply devastated and in need of help after the recent loss of his wife, and next, sorting through endless crates of donations coming in from multiple supermarkets, before having a quiet cuppa made by Pat (long-term volunteering hero) as he spoke with me about our Indian heritages and names. All in all, an experience I won’t ever forget, and already can’t wait to relive. It is truly incredible to think that across the country there are huge numbers of people, ceaselessly working at food banks or busily delivering school Breakfast Clubs, supported by the likes of the Greggs (yes, they of the awesome pasties!) Foundation, each helping our children and their families stave off hunger.
And it is only thanks to those hearts and to so many incredible, oft-invisible works, that I wrote The Great (Food) Bank Heist (heading your way on 1st July - more details coming soon!). And why today, I want to celebrate those books which do not shy away from the issues of hunger and poverty daily impacting our children, and who instead, help them to recognise the s/heroes they already are…
Onjali's top reads for World Hunger Day UK
Illustration from The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Can’t have a book list about World Hunger without this one! Who can read it and help but understand why the hungry caterpillar is so very hungry? After all, without getting what it needs, how else is it supposed to transform into what it was born to be?
It is no mystery why this little hungry caterpillar is one of the most beloved literary creations for millions of children around the world. Gifted to us all by Eric Carle, who has now himself left to transform into something even more beautiful, at the grand age of 91. Thank you Eric, for feeding our hungry, furry little souls for all the decades of your life.
It’s a No-Money Day by Kate Milner
With the expert use of just a few sentences and the wielding of some beautiful, heart-breaking illustrations, Milner’s depiction of poverty seen through the eyes of a child will have everyone wanting to help.
A gorgeous book which instantly inspires empathy. Not pity.
Illustration from Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton and Brooke Boynton-Hughes
Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton and illustrated by Brooke Boynton-Hughes
Ah, Dolly Parton... (happy sigh) A woman who has put millions of books into the hands of millions of children; invested her own money into saving the world from Covid-19, and who has never shied away from speaking about the poverty she and her family suffered as a child.
The song came before the book. But the book is glorious. And if you can listen to one whilst reading the other, even better!
The Cooking Club Detectives by Ewa Jozefkowicz (to be released on 10th June)
I know it’s not out-out yet, but I am incredibly lucky to know that it’s a story which, when it is out-out, will be one children will be flocking to in droves! Tackling food poverty and online bullying head on, and featuring a puppy called Sausage (I can’t even speak for the genius of it all), I dare to defy anyone who will not instantly fall in love with Erin and her fellow detective buddies on the hunt to find out why their cookery club is on the demise!
Illustration from Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli and Kadir Nelson
Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli and illustrated by Kadir Nelson
What do you get if you take the true story of the first ever African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize whose actions have led to over 30 million trees being planted across Kenya, a magnificent writer, and an illustrator who never fails to hit home?
Mama Miti: a story which serves to remind us all, in the most staggering, simple way, that hunger takes all forms, and is inevitably linked to how we care (or do not care) for the natural world.
Noah’s Gold by Frank Cottrell-Boyce and illustrated by Steven Lenton
It’s Frank. He’s back again. And this time, not only with a story that will have you chuckling and scratching your head too, but which highlights the very different world of poverty v privilege children so often have to navigate.
If you haven’t got it on your shelves already, I have no idea what to say to you.
You Are A Champion by Marcus Rashford and Carl Anka
You Are A Champion by Marcus Rashford, written with Carl Anka
No booklist centring on World Hunger Day would be complete without this first book by a man who has inspired so many to become anti-food poverty champions, and managed to make some of our most frostbitten-to-the-heart politicians undertake a policy U-turn or two!
Marcus Rashford’s book is every young activist’s dream. Because let’s face it, our kids ARE champions. Sometimes, they just need a guiding word to see it for themselves, and mobilise their own unique powers in the way they want.
Dosh by Rashmi Sirdeshpande
You’re never too young to understand money - the root of so many issues in our world, and get to grips with the world it has created for us all.
I truly think this might have helped me as a young person to actually start saving! It is a perfect pick-me-up-when-you-fancy-it type guide. For adults and children alike. And something every economics / maths class needs to be using! Fact.
To learn more about World Hunger Day, see www.thehungerproject.org.uk.
To join the campaign for a #HungerFreeFuture, see www.trusselltrust.org/hunger-free-future/join-us
To support Marcus Rashford’s #EndChildFoodPoverty campaign, see www.endchildfoodpoverty.org