It’s easy. PB and J. Two slices of toast and peanut butter. Jelly, optional. That’s all you need to make a sandwich.
And evidently, that’s enough to make a difference.
Initiated by Jory John in San Francisco in early 2009, the Peanut Butter Plan started out small. John, a correspondent for a daily newspaper in Northern California, was alarmed by the number of people he saw begging for food outside of local Safeway stores.
“They’d be mere feet from all that food and couldn’t really get a decent bite to eat,” John says.
So every once in a while, John would enter the store, buy some bread, peanut butter and jelly, and make sandwiches, which he would immediately pass out to approximately 10 or 20 people outside the store.
John, realizing that the idea had potential, decided to employ social networking tactics to get the word out. He created a Facebook group and started a website, inviting some friends, who in turn invited their friends to join in on the cause.
The Peanut Butter Plan soon spread quicker than Jif Extra-Creamy spread.
Today, the Facebook group has more than 2,619 members, from 25 cities across the country, plus members in Canada and England.
Starting this year, Northwestern students are determined to bring the Peanut Butter Plan to Evanston and various tourist areas of Chicago.
Spearheaded by Bienen sophomore Ishan Daya, the Peanut Butter Plan initiative at Northwestern held their first outing on Sunday, Oct. 3. Twenty-some people showed up in North Mid-Quad’s lounge to put together sandwiches, says Daya, using about 20 loaves of bread and 12 pounds of peanut butter and jelly, donated by local grocery store Dominick’s and Pick ‘N’ Save.
Two hundred and sixty sandwiches, with all but 20 passed out to hungry people in Evanston. Students also distributed sandwiches in Chicago’s downtown and Millennium Park area, where there are often many homeless people.
“It’s not just making sandwiches,” Daya says. “It’s about making a statement.”
Weinberg sophomore Sanjana Shankar, a friend of Daya’s, participated in the most recent Northwestern Peanut Butter Plan outing.
“Living in Evanston is very different from living in the small town where I grew up,” Shankar says. “I had no idea we had so many homeless people, as ignorant as that sounds. The Peanut Butter Plan is a great way to help out, do some good, and make yourself feel good.”
Another outing is in the works, according to Daya, who hopes to have one every month or so. Although donations are tough to maintain regularly, Daya is also looking to possibly combine his philanthropic efforts with Northwestern fraternities or sororities, and with Hillel, which hosts an event called “PB Jam,” similar to the Peanut Butter Plan.
Businesses in Evanston such as Jewel Osco, Woodman’s, Sam’s Club, CVS, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and “anyone who’s willing to pitch in a little to serve their community” are also on Daya’s short list of contributors with whom they hope to get in touch.
For the next outing, in either November or December, Daya also plans to donate to a local soup kitchen, and to get more people involved in the Peanut Butter Plan.
“What makes it unique is its simplicity!” he says. “Anyone can do it, it just takes five minutes out of their day to walk over and make just one sandwich. Even one sandwich can make a difference in someone’s life.”
Which makes one wonder: Why do peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cost so much at Lisa’s?