Our country is upside down and inside out! Juxtapose the strong opposition to social welfare with rampant corporate welfare for starters. The government gives billions in agricultural subsidies to huge corporations like Monsanto, but cuts food stamp programs that effect children. There are 50 million “food insecure” people in our country—people who do not know where their next meal is coming from–and that is shameful.
I saw a film this weekend that was a real eye-opener—“A Place At the Table” is a documentary that sheds a light on hunger in America, its close link to obesity and why poverty is the underlying issue that needs addressing. It’s in the theaters and you can also rent it on Amazon.com
While faith communities have done a good job of feeding the poor, charity is not what will end hunger. Fair pay for a day’s work will feed the soul of a man as well as his belly. While the job deficit grows, so does the food deficit in many households across America, yet the safety net for helping and healing both is woefully inadequate.
What we are willing to subsidize in terms of feeding the poor is a mere $3.00 per day in Federal Assistance. Congress yells and screams, “How are we going to pay for more? These people just want a free hand out,” all the while doling out corporate welfare to huge agricultural conglomerates and oil. The myth, perpetuated by some of our leaders, is that somehow poverty is a choice. I would really like to see where Paul Ryan wound up had he been born into the inner city of Philadelphia as opposed to his privileged home. Moreover, I don’t believe that any innocent child chooses to go to bed hungry. Most people who are hungry are experiencing embarrassment and not glee in applying for Federal Assistance like food stamps. We can bail out the banks, cut taxes and award money to big corporations but we cannot fund a decent program that keeps children from starving in this wealthy nation of ours? There is something criminal about that.
“A Seat At the Table” both angered and inspired me. It angered me because I see that so many of our problems, including this one, are easily fixable if we would just get the big money out of politics and force our leaders to be the public servants that they were intended to be instead of whores who jump into bed with whatever corporation is holding out the biggest check for their re-election. Imagine a Washington where the leaders were responsible to the American people, addressed the problems of those people and not the almighty American corporation. Imagine a pool of political candidates reliant upon their wits and wisdom instead of the lobby whose money will get them elected or re-elected.
“A Seat At the Table” inspired me as I began to wonder what I as one person might do to alleviate the hunger of children. I know that I can make donations to my local food bank, but I think that there may be other ways for me to advocate that food is a “right” for all people. You can live without a lot of things in life, but you cannot live without food. No mother should ever have to send her child to bed hungry at night!
There are two tiers of food consumption in this country: people who have the least are relegated to a steady diet of packaged, processed, junk food because it is the cheapest. Calories are cheap and nutritious foods cost, thus the link between hunger and obesity. There is not a “choice” to eat healthy when you are eating on $3.00 a day. The second tier is made up of those who have so much of a choice that they are the largest consumers of diet books, trying to put all that abundance into some sort of perspective.
I have never had to deal with not being able to concentrate or focus because I was hungry, the way that fifth-grader Rosie did in “A Seat At the Table.” I don’t worry about food lasting throughout the week because I am able to shop for more if I need to. Any challenge of my life that seemed harsh or insurmountable up until now seems greatly diminished in its importance after seeing this film.
Poverty is tied to education, is tied to food, is tied to the health of a nation. There are simple things that we can do now to assure that children get enough nutrition to assure a chance at a getting an education; that they get enough nutrition to assure a life of good health that in turn assures opportunity for improvement of their lot. It’s not rocket science to think that instead of giving farm subsidies to corporations like Monsanto we fund food programs for these struggling people. The cost of not doing anything to alleviate hunger in our own country will not help to balance the budget and it is certain to bankrupt us morally and spiritually. It is time to acknowledge the problem of hunger right here in the good ol’ US of A and ask ourselves if we want a class system that delineates the haves from the have-nots by virtue of who is rich enough to feed their family. If the ramifications of that are too frightening to consider, then what one action can each of us take that cumulatively can make a difference?