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The Starting Good Podcast: Erin Dinan, One Sandwich at a Time

For most of us, a peanut butter sandwich is just that, a sandwich. But to Erin Dinan, it’s an instrument of social change.

Dinan is the founder of One Sandwich at a Time, a New York-based charity that engages volunteers in large-scale sandwich making events to feed the city’s hungry and homeless.

Erin Dinan's sandwiches feed thousands of homeless in NYC.

Erin Dinan’s sandwiches feed thousands of homeless in NYC.

Her inspiration came from a chance encounter with a homeless man in a train station. Dinan had just bought herself a sandwich when the man approached her for help. She instinctively shared half of her meal and the man’s response made a powerful impression on her.

“I think he was surprised that someone had done it, and he was so grateful that someone would help him make it to his next meal,” recalls Dinan. “It was an image that really stuck with me.”

Erin then began packing extra sandwiches in her bag each day and distributing them on the street. After sharing her experiences with friends, they encouraged her to start a non-profit.

Her charity has since fed thousands of hungry and homeless individuals in New York and Erin plans to ultimately launch One Sandwich at a Time chapters in other cities.

“But on a personal level,” says Dinan, “I measure success in the lives we touch.”

“When someone comes up to me in a shelter and takes a sandwich and they hug me and thank me, I feel content. Because I know we have touched the life of one person. And for me, that goes a long way.”

Listen to the complete interview with Erin Dinan on iTunesSound Cloud, and Stitcher.

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12 thoughts on “The Starting Good Podcast: Erin Dinan, One Sandwich at a Time

  1. geoxroma says:

    Erin: You are an inspiration! and karmically charged to move mountains.
    Look at the innovative people at Dhamanhur,…They did it one bucket at a time -and built an entire sustainable community – still the work gets done.. and change happens faster on a full stomach.. Bravo! Your friend in service ~ Georgi

  2. This is all good and fine and worthy of praise. But what’s needed are not sandwiches, but a structural change in our economy and society that would offer substantive avenues out of poverty. A lot of powerful people love charity because it never threatens the status quo.

  3. joanne says:

    Yes, the system has to change, but while we’re working on that, people have to eat! Sharing our food and taking time to speak with people makes a big difference to our lives and those we meet.

    Make sandwiches, lobby politicians, sign petitions, encourage friends to get involved, run for office, vote… There are many ways to change the world.

  4. Thank you Erin for your compassion. In Baltimore, I believe they have made it MORE difficult to help the homeless in this way. A few charities were doing it but I seem to remember a lot of red tape being put in place last year. Some bs about they city wants the homeless to go to specific places so they can be tracked.
    I always thought this was something most of us can do. It just helps if you are in a place that encourages civic responsibility. Thanks! Keep up the great work!

  5. Thank you Erin for sharing. Conversation is also really important & it sounds like that’s also part of what you do. I’m a Cause-Focused Storyteller & much of what I do is listen & serve people to share their story. It’s been an amazing journey. We are All Human Beings & every one matters & has a Story to tell. Hugs from my heart to yours! Kristin

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