Today is Blog Action Day and as usual I waited until the last minute to decide on a topic. As I was walking Shiloh this morning I was thinking about it and decided that I would focus on the issue of hunger. The first thing that came to mind was Bread For the World, a non-profit, non-partisan Christian organization whose mission is to encourage policy makers to end hunger at home and abroad. Our church has supported Bread For the World as long as I can recall.
I went to the Bread For the World website and saw that today happens to be World Food Day. Perfect timing. World Food Day celebrates the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 1945 and serves to increase awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger.
For a variety of reasons, more people in America are living in poverty and the number of people who are “food insecure” has grown to record numbers. At the same time, programs which serve to mitigate hunger in the United States have faced funding cuts. That means less money to serve more people.
In my own town, there is a substantial number of people who struggle to put food on the table. For many children, the school breakfast and lunch programs provide much of the food they receive. That means that on weekends and school breaks, they are hungry.
There are a number of community programs which are attempting to deal with the hunger issue in our area. The local Episcopal church operates a food bank. People from several churches and other groups joined together to form Abba’s Tables which serves a hot meal 6 nights a week. Another church serves a meal on the night Abba’s Tables doesn’t. Meals On Wheels operates out of our local hospital with various churches and service organizations taking turns delivering (I’m volunteering this Friday, in fact). There is an organization called Compassion Outreach which offers free health care twice a month, along with a free meal. I’ve volunteered with all of these groups and each time I am astounded by the number of people utilizing the services. Hunger is all too often invisible. Unless you are the one experiencing it.
Despite all these efforts, hunger persists. I know I’m veering into the political realm here, something I generally reserve for my other blog, The Well-Groomed Hippie, but I feel so strongly about this issue that I’m taking that risk. It would be great if churches and private charities could handle the need but they can’t. They just can’t. And that is why I believe the government has a role to play. Programs such as WIC and SNAP are essential and I am adamantly opposed to funding cuts. Many call for across-the-board spending cuts but I just don’t believe that all government spending is equal.
I just heard that the House passed a bill to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling a few minutes ago as I was writing this post. We dodged a bullet but the battle rages on. If, like me, you believe that balancing the budget on the backs of the poor is unconscionable, I urge you to start writing letters and making phone calls. Our representatives need to hear from their constituents and I am committed to setting aside time every week to let them know how I feel about hunger and poverty. I hope you’ll join me. And if your community has opportunities to serve the hungry I would encourage you to volunteer.