Food for Thought
by Jan Baughman

"Imagine if every time you dine out and use your American Express Card, you could help provide a meal for someone who's hungry. Now you can. Join these and thousands of other restaurants in the fight against hunger. Together we can do more."

This is called the "Dine Across America" program. You eat at one of the participating restaurants between November 1 and December 31 (list to follow), pay with your American Express Card, and American Express will donate money to an antihunger program known as "Share our Strength".

The fine print states that American Express will donate up to $5,000,000 based on 3 cents per card purchase, other transactions and contributions. Three cents. It appears that they and the restaurants will be the true benefactors of this campaign. To reach five million dollars would take 166,666,665 meals and at, say, $25 per meal, well, you do the math...

This campaign reaches to the very core of our psyches that were formulated to the tune of "clean your plate -- there are starving children in Africa". (And, if you are really good and clean your plate, you can have dessert. If you don't clean your plate, we'll feed the table scraps to the dog and then put him on diet food once he is overweight like us.) The sad thing is, it will probably work. We'll dine out for the cause, feeling warm and cozy with full bellies knowing that we're doing something for the starving children of wherever this money is going so that their bellies can be distended like ours. We wouldn't dream of giving our change to the homeless man outside the restaurant, or giving him our leftovers, but we'll give our three cents worth to the cause.

Here is an alternate plan for those who would like to join the fight against hunger without being hypocritical. First, do not eat at any of the following restaurants for the remainder of the year: Chili's Bar & Grill, T. G. I. Friday's, California Pizza Kitchen, The Spaghetti Warehouse Restaurant, Bennigan's Grill & Tavern, Bertucci's Brick Oven Pizzeria, Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, and Steak & Ale Restaurant. Second, do not use your American Express Card for the remainder of the year.

Now, take the money you would have spent (all of it, not three cents), cut back on your Thanksgiving food orgy and buy some canned food to donate to your local food bank. If you prefer to donate the money to an international organization, there is an excellent web site of the International Services Agencies that provides a listing of hunger relief groups. You can find them at this address.

Published November 20, 1996
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