Food for thought


The red-colored flier was there this morning when I opened the door to get the paper off the porch.

“Hello, neighbors,” the flier announced.

We were instructed to collect canned goods and anything else we’d care to donate to poor families.  We’re to set out these food stuffs on the porch Dec. 5.

It’s the 25th annual Christmas Food Box, which serves 1,000 families in our town each year we’re told in the cheery message.   St. Mary’s soup kitchen, the Bishop Luers High School Key Club and St. Johns Elementary School sponsor this seasonal food drive.  And catching the spirit, I noticed that by mid-day my wife had already filled a shopping bag with canned goods.   It’s amazing what middle class people can live without.

I don’t recall any church or civic group dropping off canned goods at my house when I was a kid.   I imagine that because my parents belonged to bridge clubs, the Elks and the country club in our northwestern Ohio town people wouldn’t have guessed that my family couldn’t always pay the grocery bill.

I knew it , though.  I knew it because I answered the door when the butcher  announced to me, age 10, that he was taken possession of our 1937 Chevy because Dad hadn’t paid his bill.

It was humiliating.  But my folks didn’t offer to tell their side of the story.  People have their pride you know.   I was left to suffer the shame alone.

For me today, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like not to have enough money to put food on the table for the family.   Yes, there are food stamps.  Yes, Congress recently increased the food stamp allowance.  That’s now up to an average of $133 a month.  Yet for many households, that only gets you through three weeks of the month.  If that.   Then the family turns to food banks – providing one is available in your community.

It’s the story of a very tattered safety net.

The other day, the Department of Agriculture put out some grim figures.  It seems that within the last year or so, the number of households in which children face “very low food security” has jumped from 323,000 to 506,000.   (In the 1960s, we called it hunger; now it’s food insecurity, a way to pretty up human suffering.)

Well, those figures reflect what’s happened with food stamps.  Within two years, we’ve had a 40 percent increase.   That translates into 36 million Americans relying on this bare bones program for their daily bread.

Most of us won’t be surprised that these numbers, in turn, follow the recent increases in unemployment, now over 10 percent throughout the country.

But the families most likely to be in this fix for the long haul, even when jobs are plentiful,  are those headed by single moms.

President Obama wants to end hunger in America by 2015.  That’s his promise. So let’s all write him a letter or send him an e-mail to tell him to be sure and do that.

Meantime, put your canned goods on the porch.  And send a fat check to your local food bank.

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