It all began on a summer morning in July 2020, when Madelaine Black visited the Meir Panim branch in the coastal town of Or Akiva to volunteer at the food bank. Black was so moved by the interactions between the staff of the center and the volunteers who were sorting vegetables for distribution to people in need, that she decided to write a children’s book about her experiences. The book, entitled ‘Meir Carrot & the Happy Shopper: A Food Bank Tale’, was released this summer and is available on Amazon and at the author’s website, meircarrot.com.
“I had never written a children’s book before,” says Black, who moved to Israel from London some fourteen years ago. “What touched me was seeing several volunteers sorting vegetables and getting their children to go into the empty crates to see if anything was left to take for themselves. Several women who also needed to be on the receiving end of the food charity had volunteered with their kids. Out of pride, they were coming to volunteer and hoping they might be offered some for themselves or take themselves. I saw how Ilanit, the Meir Panim branch manager, was interacting with people because she really knows everyone in the town and knows everyone’s needs. That’s where I got the idea for the book.”
The book, colorfully illustrated by veteran children’s book illustrator Shirley Waisman, tells the story of a boy named Danny, a magical carrot called Meir, and the adventures that ensue when Danny and his mother volunteer at the local food bank. Black says that there is a great deal of discussion in the charity world about givers and receivers. What struck her about her experiences at Or Akiva, she says, was how everyone was working together. “There was a need to brand this process so that you are not a giver or receiver.”
Madelaine says that the book is ideal for families snuggling together and creating interaction between generations. “I call it a family book more than a children’s book,” she says. Black adds that there are very few children’s books about soup kitchens, and the story communicates their importance and the need to reduce the stigma of people in need. Madelaine says that her goal is to ‘rebrand’ the terms of recipient and client to that of ‘shoppers.’ “Whether one is a giver or taker, we are all in it together,” she says.
Proceeds from sales of the book are directed to Meir Panim branches in Israel.