Peter Norback took Barack Obama's campaign talk of hope and change to heart. He said it inspired him to launch a campaign to get his neighbors in Tucson, Ariz. to contribute just "one can a week" to feed the hungry.
"When President Obama got elected there was an attitude change," Norback told HuffPost. "When a sensitive guy came along and said we should be responsible human beings, that really hit a note in everybody and all my neighbors said, 'Yeah, we should do something.'"
While hope has turned to cynicism for many, Norback has kept the faith. Every Sunday since early 2009, he's spent four hours collecting cans and other goods from his neighbors. He delivers the payload to the Community Food Bank in Tucson. In 2009, he delivered more than 9,000 pounds of food.
"Some weeks people forgot, but he never forgot," said Community Food Bank development officer Pauline Hechler. "He has shown them he is going to be there week after week, so they do their part. They don't want to let him down."
Hechler said demand for food in Tucson had increased 40 percent over the past year. "It's unbelievable," she said. The food bank distributes enough food for 48,000 meals a day.
Norback documents his work in a weekly email and blog post. Last week brought the first rainy Sunday in the program's 57 weeks, and Norback wondered if everyone would still participate. They did.
"It just really, really surprised me," said Norback, a 67-year-old computer teacher. "It showed me that I'm going to keep on pressing on. It is affecting people, it's getting to them...Nobody called anybody. That means that I have to really be responsible. If you're really responsible, the citizens will follow you."
People are not only following Norback, they're imitating him in other cities.
"Peter's One Can A Week program was our inspiration when my son began a
weekly food collection for the veterans in our community," wrote Carol Reed of Wake Forest, N.C. in an email to HuffPost. "We stumbled across his blog on the Internet, and being former Tucsonans, it caught our eye. I wrote to Peter who sent all his materials which we adapted for what we are doing. Basically, every Sunday my son collects non-perishables from our neighborhood of about 65 homes. He started in late August, and has collected over 800 pounds of food so far. He delivers it to the American Legion Post where the veterans who are in need of assistance can come to receive it."
For anyone interested in starting a One Can A Week program, Norback's got a starter kit on his site. The United Way of Southeastern Michigan adapted the guide and is promoting the concept as well.
"Imagine if every household in your neighborhood donated one can of food, every week, to your local food pantry," says a message on the United Way's site. "Would anything change? Would there be less hunger in metro Detroit? If you look at the One Can-a-Week program created by one neighborhood in Tucson, Arizona, the answer is yes."
HuffPost readers: Is there a One Can A Week program in your neighborhood? Are you starting one? Tell us about it -- email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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