Music can elicit many different kinds of responses in people. For me, the response was charitable. Music is my true love and as an aspiring filmmaker that is not something to easily admit to. I've flown across the Atlantic to experience the greatness of a song. Great music can be powerful, enough so that I think it can help feed the many who are hungry in New York. My inspiration for using music to feed the hungry came from a 5-year-old girl from San Francisco who asked a very loving question: "What can we do to help?"
The story of young Phoebe from San Francisco is pretty amazing. I I first came across her story on the Huffington Post, days after my birthday, and only months later would I have an answer to her question. Phobe, on her way to preschool, saw a homeless man holding a sign asking for food and started asking questions. Questions so thoughtful, that they would be surprising even if they came from adults. Phoebe's questions eventually led to her feeding, in her words, "Seventeen-thousand something" people. The story and video is something not to be missed if you haven't seen it already.
So "What can we do to help?" I guess when you read a story like that, about a little girl making a difference and you know you've done nothing that like that, it makes you reassess your life. I've always been the volunteer type, helping out at soup kitchens, the Salvation Army, the Christmas in April program, even at a suicide hotline but I haven't done much of anything the last couple of years. So hearing Phoebe's story inspired me months later to come up with an idea called Music vs Hunger. The concept is nothing new, have a concert and ask the audience for donations and to bring canned food to the show, but this idea has a very New York sound to it. Anyone who knows about indie music knows about what's going on in New York right now. Bands are flocking here from everywhere, trying to make a name for themselves. Not unlike Greenwich Village's jazz era, music in New York is at a special moment. Every night, in small cramped spaces throughout the city, music is being made or played. I've seen so many amazing bands and heard such great music and I can't get enough. And because it's such a big part of my life, I want to somehow combine my passion for music with the need to help.
The numbers are staggering: one in five people rely on a soup kitchen or food bank in New York City, and The Food Bank for NYC is reporting that 93 percent of food pantries and soup kitchens in the city have seen an increase in first-time visitors over the past year. With unemployment at record highs, I think it's important that we don't let people fall through the cracks and become unnecessarily hungry. Music vs Hunger's goal is to use the draw of great music, with exciting up-and-coming bands, to make sure those who are hungry are not forgotten.
Music vs Hunger's first show was in late November. Featuring three great bands HolidayHoliday, the Senors of Marseille and (appropriately) Food Stamps, the show raised $70 and collected about 50 non-perishable food items. I think we can do much better, but just $1 donated to The Food Bank of NYC can provide 5 meals. So our first show helped feed more than 300 people.