How Do You Solve Hunger? One Sandwich at a Time, Says Erin Dinan

Written by | Lifestyle

Erin Dinan

Erin Dinan in her pop-up sandwich shop at Metrosource.

Think one person can’t make a difference in the world? Erin Dinan, the guiding light behind One Sandwich at a Time, proves that untrue every day.

After graduating college, Dinan took some time to volunteer in Africa. Rather than returning disheartened or exhausted, she realized that it just might be her life’s calling to try to make the world a better place.

Shortly after settling in New York City to embark on a photography career, Dinan received news that set her back on her heels: her mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. With her mind buzzing with worry, she began to look for ways to occupy herself while the doctors worked to get her mother the help she needed.

One day at a subway stop, offered half of the sandwich she’d just bought to a homeless man who thanked her with such sincerity that their encounter stayed with her for days. And if that wasn’t enough, she bumped into a homeless man shortly thereafter who was divorced, had lost his job was and trying to feed two young children. He was sifting through the trash for food.

“In talking to him,” says Dinan, looking back, “I started to realize that there are so many misconceptions surrounding homelessness. People make all kinds of assumptions about how people get into these situations, and how much more easily people fall through the cracks if they don’t have the kind of safety net that the rest of us can rely on.

That was it, she decided. IN 2011, Dinan founded One Sandwich at a Time to make and donate sandwiches to homeless shelters and soup kitchens throughout the city. Before long, she had 300 volunteers helping her. “So many of us really do want to stop, pay attention and lend a helping hand, but feel disconnected in the way that it’s asked. But when you’re doing something — like making a sandwich that you know someone is actually going to eat, because they need it — it’s no longer something theoretical. It’s practical, and our volunteers get a real sense that they’re making a difference.”

Although Dinan now holds down a full-time hotel job, she also says that One Sandwich at a Time is another full-time job, and one that’s she’s happy to have. In the span of a few short months, Dinan and her compatriots have put some 30,000 sandwiches into the hands of the hungry.

We at Metrosource were lucky enough to host Dinan and her volunteers this week as they did what they always do, putting themselves to work in carrying out a mission of helping those most in need.

Does it get tiring? Do people make discouraging comments about the futility of what One Sandwich can really do? “Of course,” Dinan admits. “because there will always be reasons to give up. But there are a couple of quotes I lean on when I get to feeling low. One is from (actress and philanthropist) Audrey Hepburn, who said, “You have two hands; one to help yourself and one to help other people.

The other quote is from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Last modified: February 26, 2018