16,000 children die every day of hunger related causes. I’ll wait while you read that again. 16,000 a day. 1 in 8 AMERICANS faces food insecurity. Of the 49.1 million people living in food insecure households (up from 36.2 million in 2007), 32.4 million are adults (14.4 percent of all adults) and 16.7 million are children (22.5 percent of all children). And yet I am, like many Americans, overweight.
I have never known true hunger. I say things all the time like “I’m starving” or “My stomach thinks my throat’s been cut” but I’m not suffering from hunger daily. Heaven knows everyone at my house from biggest adult to tiniest kitten is well fed. So today I’m thankful for the blessing (and curse) of food.
Growing up on a farm we had our own milk, beef and vegetables. But there were times when I was growing up that we were on food stamps. And we still never went hungry. My mother was resourceful and thrifty. She could squeeze a meal out of the most skimpy of leftovers. She could make a casserole out of just about anything if she added Velveeta as a binder.
I am not that good of a food manager. We throw away an appalling amount of food in this house. It saddens me to clean out the fridge and see what we didn’t finish. But it’s hard to cook for three people. And I don’t like leftovers, maybe a nod to my resentment of them from childhood. I have been doing better and I do make chicken stock out of my chicken carcasses and try to reinvent my leftovers into something new we can eat. And none of us look like we’re hurting for a meal.
But there are people who are. There are kids whose families will be in a pinch come the holidays because the school isn’t providing lunch for the kids. People who won’t have a turkey or a ham to fill their holiday table. This is the case all year, not just at the holidays.
We sent a bag of food to school with Madeline for her food drive. At Ukrops there used to be a big bin at the exit and I would try to buy an extra can of whatever was on sale and throw it in there every time I went. Now that we have no Ukrops I make sure I get the free items from Wegman’s even if it’s stuff we won’t eat so I can donate it. It’s not enough. I know it’s not enough.
What is enough, what can be done? I don’t have great answers. I think teaching some kind of cooking/food budgeting in school wouldn’t hurt. Not that school isn’t taxed enough with things to cover. But Home Ec needs to not be making cookies and sewing pillows. It needs to be doing your laundry, taking care of your home and how to make a food budget based on a menu of healthy choices. We need more access to AFFORDABLE local food. Our farmer’s market takes food stamps now which is a start. But do most of the people on food stamps know how to make healthy food choices for their families? I don’t know.
So I’m going to do the one thing I can do. Put down my fork. Take less. Eat less meat. Eat less period. I know that won’t put food on someone’s table but if we all took just what we needed and no more perhaps the strain on the food system would be less. And maybe less pressure in one place would result in more abundance somewhere down the line. Of course I’ll be starting this right after I gorge myself on turkey and dressing because around here you only get that once a year.