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32pp, color

9in x 11in
Juvenile Nonfiction: Biography

May 2023







Age Range:



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"Synopsis: Hunger continues to be an international problem. "Food for Hope: How John van Hengel Invented Food Banks for the Hungry" by author Jeff Gottesfeld and illustrator Michelle Laurentia Agatha is the true life story of how one ordinary person did something extraordinary -- shows how everyone can do something to make a difference. 

Young readers will feel encouraged to find their own way to make a difference. Real life experience plus social justice interests combine into a powerful solution, filling empty bellies with nourishing food, all without costing a lot of money. Recycling meets hunger in John van Hengel's ingenious, yet obvious solution to both food waste and widespread hunger.

Critique: Of special relevance to young readers with an interest in the social issues of homelessness, poverty, and hunger here in American or elsewhere throughout the world, "Food for Hope: How John van Hengel Invented Food Banks for the Hungry" is a thoroughly 'kid friendly' biography that is unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library collections for children ages 7-11."

— Midwest Book Review

Christopher Award Winner

Winner, Goddard Riverside CBC Youth
Book Prize for Social Justice

Food for Hope

By Jeff Gottesfeld

Illustrated by Michelle Laurentia Agatha

John van Hengel started the world's first food bank in 1967 and went on to create a network of food banks through Feeding America.

The concept of getting food that would otherwise be wasted to people who are hungry has spread throughout the world. Gottesfeld's warm text and Agatha's lively art shows that there's no shame in being hungry — the shame lies in how long it took for someone to figure out how to feed people! All it took was one person with a good idea to change things.

"Food is so much more than nourishment. Gottesfeld's inspiring story with Agatha's bright, beautiful illustrations is a reminder of how kindness also feeds us."

— Mollie Katzen, best-selling author of The Moosewood Cookbook and Pretend Soup

"A loving tribute to grassroots activist John van Hengel, said to be the founder of the first food bank.

Van Hengel (1923-2005), who knew “the mind-numbing ache of hunger” from experience, found his vocation when, as a cook for his Arizona church’s soup kitchen, he discovered that grocery stores were discarding masses of useable stock. His gift was plainly an ability to think big; in 1967 he founded St. Mary’s Food Bank, which distributed 125 tons of donated food its first year. That led to Second Harvest (now called Feeding America). Van Hengel proved able to handle windfalls ranging from 5,000 live chickens to a million chocolate Easter bunnies—and he went on to help found more food banks around the world. Gottesfeld characterizes his subject’s early life as a “riches-to-rags” story, but he skips the causes of that descent and other specifics to focus on van Hengel’s achievements, faith, and humility before closing with a sentimental anecdote about a first grader who shook the then-old man’s “trembling hand,” saying, “You did good.” He did indeed. In the same idealized vein, Agatha arranges cast-out food in a dumpster with fussy precision, lays down chickens and chocolate bunnies in tidy rows, and depicts the joyful, plainly dressed White man joining racially diverse people standing in a food line, hauling bags and boxes, or gathered at tables. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An inspiring profile warmed by its (not undeserved) sentimental glow. (author’s note, note on research and dialogue, timeline) (Picture-book biography. 6-8)"

— Kirkus Reviews

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