I have always been troubled by games or art projects or other activities that use food as an object and then throw it away afterwards. It seems wrong to have a canned good drive for a local food pantry one day and then play sensory games with jello the next week and make rice and bean mosaics the next.
Here is a thoughtful blog post from Marcel deRegt: Say NO to Food. He says in part:
Statistics show that there is enough food on earth that no one needs to go hungry. The problem is that the majority of the food is in the developed countries, North America being a huge consumer. In fact we have so much food in North America that we actually use food for games! Can you figure that? There are people around the word that would do pretty much anything for the food that we use at youth group for games. It’s a harsh reality but true.
How many of us as youth leaders have had hot-dog eating contests, played with marshmallows, cheerios, created “fear factor” challenges with food, etc.? I am sure you can add to the list. Is using food for games being stewardly of the resources that God has given us?
Say NO TO FOOD for games at youth group. Youth workers are creative people so I am sure you are able to come up with some other way to entertain our youth without wasting food. Over the past 15 years in ministry I have tried not to use food for games. Have I slipped up? You bet, but every time I turn on the TV I am reminded of my personal pledge to those I have met overseas who long for food.
Will you join me in committing to not using food for games at youth group? It’s a pledge that will take some creative thinking on your part but one that will set a huge example to your youth. It’s one small step that can make a life-long impression.
Cancelling the pie in the pastor's face competition or not using potato stamping as your art method won't stop world hunger. But in not disrespecting food and its God-given purpose, you will be setting a good example for the community you serve.
Here is a blog from Laurie's Little Monkeys, Sensory Bin Ideas without Food, which while it is focused on preschool classroom sensory bin suggestions, can also help you brainstorm ideas for not using food for your lessons (except for lessons involving cooking and eating, of course!). Be sure to note her moving description of a friend's VBS, where after a craft using dried beans she noticed the children's mothers picking up beans from the floor and tables, not to help clean up but to take home to cook for their families.
What do you think? Comment below with your experiences and ideas on how to teach creatively while honoring the hungry in our community and world.