Full Stomach, Happy Heart

By Melanie Turchyn

“Barriga llena, corazón contento” – Spanish Proverb

“A full stomach makes for a happy heart.”

Regardless of where we come from, every person can relate to the above Spanish Proverb and be familiar with the effects that an empty stomach can have on us, often times making us irritable. In recent years, this has become known as being “hangry.” But hangry is the least of our problems when it comes to food scarcity and hunger throughout the world. An astonishing 815 million people – 11% of the world’s population – do not get the food they need to live a healthy life.¹ Starvation and poverty go hand in hand, and hundreds of hunger relief organizations are established across every continent, country, and here in the U.S. within every state, to help feed those in need. So it’s no surprise to see the abundant amount of volunteer opportunities at soup kitchens and food pantries right in your own backyard. Personally, I have found that helping at these nonprofits can be one of the most rewarding ways to give back.

The Father’s Heart Ministries is one of my favorite organizations in NYC. Their mission is to help people move from dependency to dignity and from poverty to prosperity by providing assistance in various areas such as social services, legal advice, children’s programs, education, career training opportunities and a food pantry.

For three Saturdays of every month, Father’s Heart opens their doors to serve approximately 700 hungry New Yorkers an all-you-can-eat hot breakfast and provide fresh groceries as part of their Hunger Prevention program. Guests come from different ethnic backgrounds, some with physical or mental ailments, to eat together at communal tables while more than 150 volunteers work and ensure that each person is treated with dignity and respect.

I have set up several volunteer events with Father’s Heart for my colleagues at Point72, and I cannot say enough about how accommodating they are, and how well run the organization and volunteer events are. They are the group I mention to anyone looking to give back in NYC. In just a few hours, on a Saturday morning, you see people who come in with hungry bellies leave with happy hearts. The impact you make is shown by the look of contentment and gratitude on the guests’ faces. I think this is why I love this event so much: instant gratification for everyone involved.

As a volunteer, you are on your feet the whole time to complete your assigned job, but sometimes I’ll find myself stopping and looking around at the hundreds of people in the room, taking in the moment. The large auditorium is completely full, yet this is not even a fraction of the 11% living in hunger who do not know when or where their next meal will come from. Some of these guests have absolutely nothing but the clothes on their backs, but thanks to Father’s Heart and countless similar organizations, they are being cared for. It doesn’t matter whether it was the hot breakfast the guests were served, or the conversations exchanged with volunteers serving them, everyone is united together. Volunteers leave knowing that they made a difference in the lives of others.

I am lucky to work in a place where it is my job to partake in such events. They serve as a reminder that there are people struggling to have what so many consider the basics – food on our tables and a roof over our heads. It also reminds me that there are good people in this world working hard to help others. You don’t have to dedicate your life to service, just a few hours here and there can make a tremendous difference in someone else’s life.


1 2017 FAO Stats (via https://www.riseagainsthunger.org/understanding-hunger/world-hunger-facts/)