I’ve never gone hungry before.
Sure, I mean, I’ve fasted and skipped a meal here and there and felt pretty hungry during those times, but I have never had to worry about where my next meal is coming from.
I’ve been thinking about this because I am aware that hunger exists all around me. I saw it in Africa and I am face to face with it again in my job. I see it in the faces of the people who go through the line at the food bank to pick up their monthly bag of food with their food stamps.
And there is not much choice beyond what is offered. The items in the picture above are samples of what might be available in any given week. In summertime, there will be more fresh produce and fruits from the farmer’s markets.
Someone I talked to last week had the opinion that there are food bank customers who have little or no cooking skills and many of them are third generation welfare clients who don’t know anything different. They just go with what is familiar and modeled for them by their caregivers.
As soon as some people get their stamps, they go to the grocery store to get their food and then with whatever is left over, use the rest at the food bank. But all too often, when the month is not quite half over, they find themselves out of food and out of luck.
Apparently, this person felt that many of them are not even interested in cooking classes and won’t participate.
He also felt that clients should go to the food bank first to see what is offered and THEN go to the grocery store. This would provide more choices and also perhaps make the supply last a little longer.
Some of these food bank customers may have had steady jobs and back then it was easy to just simply look in the refrigerator and see what was appealing. If there was nothing appetizing, it is easy enough to go to the store and pick something up. And when that changes and they find themselves out of money, they have to plan every meal and be diligent about using every ingredient they have.
What I understood from this conversation is that it is stressful, having to manage the resources you have and to make them last until the next cycle. This stuff I am hearing and seeing is only the tip of the iceberg in my learning curve.
I take it all for granted: having food within reach and having it any time I want. I’m usually pretty good about planning our meals for the week and only go to the store at most twice a week if it is a solid meal plan. But this week I went to the store way more often than I usually do.
When I learned about these things, I actually felt ashamed of my behavior. It is all very eye-opening and humbling for me. I will say that I am now more aware of my actions and want to make more effort to be conscientious about how I spend my time and money. It is so easy to just hop in the car and dash to the grocery store for that one ingredient I am missing. And I want to make excuses: well, I was busy working and taking the kids here and there…
And I really don’t know enough about the hunger issue. I just know that I’m more aware of it and am trying to figure out how to sort through the political, social, psychological, economical complexities behind it.