Feeding the Hungry

Twice a month I flip immediately to the final column in the latest edition of Newsweek to read my favorite columnist Anna Quindlen. She doesn’t disappoint with her recent offering about the current shortage of food for the poor.


Here’s an excerpt:

The poor could be forgiven for feeling somewhat poorer nowadays. The share of the nation’s income going to the top 1 percent of its citizens is at its highest level since 1928, just before the big boom went bust. But poverty is not a subject that’s been discussed much by the current administration, who were wild to bring freedom to the Iraqis but not bread to the South Bronx. “Hunger is hard for us as a nation to admit,” says Clyde Kuemmerle, who oversees the volunteers at Holy Apostles. “That makes it hard to talk about and impossible to run on.

At Holy Apostles (in New York) the issue is measured in mouthfuls. Pasta, collard greens, bread, cling peaches. But in this anniversary year the storage shelves are less full, the pipeline less predictable. The worst emergency food shortage in years is plaguing charities from Maine to California, even while the number of those who need help grows. The director of City Harvest in New York, Jilly Stephens, has told her staff they have to find another million pounds of food over the next few months to make up the shortfall. “Half as many pantry bags” is the mantra heard now that the city receives half the amount of emergency food than it once did from the Feds. In Los Angeles 24 million pounds of food in 2002 became 15 million in 2006; in Oregon 13 million pounds dwindled to six. It’s a cockamamie new math that denies the reality of hunger amid affluence.

There are many reasons why. An agriculture bill that would have increased aid and the food-stamp allotment has been knocking around Congress, where no one ever goes hungry. Donations from a federal program that buys excess crops from farmers and gives them to food banks has shrunk alarmingly. Even the environment and corporate efficiency have contributed to empty pantries: more farmers are producing corn for ethanol, and more companies have conquered quality control, cutting down on those irregular cans and battered boxes that once went to the needy.”

Quindlen writes further about the thousands of people who are fed lunch at the Church of the Holy Apostles in New York City:

This place is a blessing, and an outrage. “We call these people our guests,” says the rector. “They are the children of God.” That’s real God talk. The political arena has been lousy with the talk-show variety in recent years: worrying about whether children could pray in school instead of whether they’d eaten before they got there, obsessing about the beginning of life instead of the end of poverty, concerned with private behavior instead of public generosity.

There’s a miracle in which an enormous crowd comes to hear Jesus and he feeds them all by turning a bit of bread and fish into enough to serve the multitudes. The truth is that America is so rich that political leaders could actually produce some variant of that miracle if they had the will. And, I suppose, if they thought there were votes in it. Enough with the pious sanctimony about gay marriage and abortion. If elected officials want to bring God talk into public life, let it be the bedrock stuff, about charity and mercy and the least of our brethren. Instead of the performance art of the presidential debate, the candidates should come to Holy Apostles and do what good people, people of faith, do there every day—feed the hungry, comfort the weary, soothe the afflicted. And wipe down the tables after each seating. “

The question is, what do we do to hold politicians and government leaders accountable for the lack of food and care given to the least of these in this country?

To start with, we can simply write letters (weekly) and make phone calls (daily or weekly) to those in power demanding that more be done to feed the hungry and poor.  And we can encourage others to do the same. If every neighborhood in ever city or even every church in every city started letter-writing and phone calling campaigns that flooded politician’s offices with their concerns, it would be impossible for change to not occur.

And secondly, we could be better informed about who we’re voting for and stop voting for those (Democrat and Republican) who are more interested in their own pork barrell projects.  The politicians have the wealth and the power to make things better for the poor. As the people who elect the politicians to serve all people we have to demand that they do their jobs so that no one person is left unfed and uncared for.

We also have to demand more from corporiations and advertising and media which fuel this great lie that “more is better,” that standing in line in the rain and snow at 4 a.m. in front of Macy’s on Black Friday to get that discounted leather jacket actually brings fullfillment in life.

And we have to encourage others (even demand from family and friends) to change their way of living that makes the economic gap wider, the greed factor greater and hate & oppression stronger.  Of course, before we demand this of others, we have to demand it of ourselves. 

We have to not only serve the poor by providing food, shelter and care but also by cutting back drastically on our own selfless consumeristic needs. In essence, we have live out the faith we profess and believe.

How we specifically live out our faith is up to each individual, a commitment they have to make between themselves and God. All I know is that it’s got to happen soon or everything inside of us may be devoured by our own greed.  And that may be more starvation than the world can stomach.


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