There are a multitude of stories going back to the 1890’s about the origin of the term “Black Friday.” It may have come from a crashed stock market caused by investors manipulating the price of gold. Or perhaps it’s an old Philadelphia police phrase used by those who dreaded working extra-long hours between Thanksgiving and the Army-Navy game.
The reference most of us know is a lot more recent. In the 1980s, retail finance professionals calculated that it wasn’t until after Thanksgiving that retail businesses started to turn a profit for the year – going from being negative, in “the red” (accounting-speak for operating unprofitably) to being in ‘the black” (operating profitability). Of course, Black Friday is now a recognized shopping term, a staple of our annual holiday spending, a time for grabbing deals and discounts while still gorging on turkey day leftovers.
Food over-consumption certainly leads into Black Friday in the US. During the traditional Thanksgiving holiday meal in America, more than 736 million pounds of turkey (the weight of the Empire State Building), 250 million pounds of potatoes, 80 million pounds of cranberries, and more than 77 million pounds of ham are eaten, contributing to the more than 3,000 calories taken in on average individually that day. With homes full of family, food, and football, the Black Friday shopping lists are finalized, and we don’t think of world hunger. We should.
While Americans focus on the festive holiday season, every 10 seconds a child dies of hunger. During a two-hour Thanksgiving Day meal, more than 8,600 kids worldwide will have starved to death.
In the US, more than 9 million children face hunger, that’s 1 in 8. Food insecurity and malnutrition may predominantly occur in underdeveloped countries but developing nations are not immune. As much as food insecurity has been declining in US households with children over the last several years, the COVID-19 pandemic reversed that trend across all the demographic categories tracked. When reviewing ethnicity/race trends of the largest communities of food insecurity, African Americans came in at 22% and Latino at 18.5% in 2020. Another example of systemic inequality. Yet the magnitude of food insecurity and the burgeoning hunger crisis goes relatively unnoticed.
For more than 60 years, a global non-profit organization called Action Against Hunger has focused on the causes and effects of hunger. Their work reaches 26 million people in 50 countries. The organization fielded a 2020 Global Hunger Awareness Study to measure American’s awareness and perception of global hunger. The research took national demographics into account to properly represent the population. The results show that 48% of participants have donated to charity and 8% specifically donated towards causes that combat hunger. Most of those donations stay local with about 18% going to global causes.
Compassion is cited as the major cause of donation. Ending hunger is Gen Z’s most preferred social cause. Many believe, especially Baby Boomers, that the hunger crisis has gotten worse in the last 40 years and hunger related deaths have grown in the last 3 years. Not many know that more than 6,000 children die daily — a third guess a much lower number. The most amazing finding was that many believe if the problem of hunger has not been solved yet – it never will be. Disorganization, greed, and politics were noted as the barriers. Education and awareness, especially hunger statistics are cited as the drivers of support.
It would be powerful to use the spending drive of Black Friday to increase giving to this global cause. If some of our country’s most notable hunger-relief organizations could break through the promotional clutter of Black Friday sales, the impact could be enormous.
The work being done by many non-profits, beyond Action Against Hunger, like Feeding America, Freedom From Hunger, Meals on Wheels, No Kid Hungry, Bread For The World, The Hunger Project, the World Central Kitchen and the United Nations World Food Program USA, all help drive awareness of food insecurity and hunger. All these organizations not only need donations but welcome volunteers.
Other incredible corporate entities across the food industry are also on the front lines of the battle against hunger. They’re attacking causes linked to their businesses, especially as they measure their ESG (environmental, social and governance) plans like Unilever’s Zero Hunger initiative, Kroger’s Zero Hunger Zero Waste, and The Zero Hunger Private Sector Pledge organized by the International Institute for Sustainable Development – with more than 43 companies pledging more than $390 million in 47 countries.
This year, when finalizing your Black Friday shopping list consider that the 2022 forecast for consumer spending on Black Friday is being estimated at $158 Billion. Imagine if a percentage of that money was dedicated to hunger relief. A study produced in Germany almost two years ago indicated that ending world hunger would require an investment of approximately $330 billion – $33 billion a year for 10 years, spread between all the world’s countries. It is possible to do. We can create a #zerohunger world if we make Black Friday a bit more about food and less about discounted merchandise. I urge you to put one of the hunger relief organizations identified above on your shopping list this year. Let’s work together to put hunger relief in the black.