Tuesday, September 4, 2012

September is Hunger Awareness Month - What Can We Do To Help?

Have you ever been really, truly hungry?  Have you ever gone without eating anything for days with no prospect of having a meal due to lack of access to food?  Due to having nothing in your pantry? No one to share with you?  Due to having no money to buy food?  Due to having no job and no prospects for one?

What if you were sleeping under a bridge or on a park bench with no way to cook any food.  None.  Zip.  Nada.  You might be able to eat something cold from a can if you could acquire a can of food and were lucky enough for it to have a pop top.  Cold Dinty Moore beef stew would be like eating the finest filet mignon if it had been days since you had eaten.  Perhaps you may have to resort to stealing something to assuage your hunger.

Can you imagine hunger being your daily existence?  Never knowing, always wondering when and where you might eat again.  Perhaps you may be lucky enough to spend a night in a shelter where a meal would be provided, or you may have access to a soup kitchen somewhere.  Hallelujah for the Salvation Army Food truck that comes to your neighborhood once a week and you will be able to eat something after standing in line with so many other people sharing your dilemma.  You carry everything you own with you in plastic bags, you sleep on concrete under a bridge to keep from being arrested.  If you have children, you must hide them in fear that they will be taken away from you.  Your children may cry in constant hunger and pain from lack of nutrition.

Just think about this.   Seriously.  We are the richest country in the world.  Why?  Why should anyone go hungry.  Children and senior citizens experience the highest rate of hunger.   Perhaps the seniors do not have a pension and collect only a small bit of social security which must pay for their medications, housing and food.   They rely on food boxes from churches and other organizations to fill in what they cannot afford.  Children are dependent upon adults to feed them.  Schools do what they can to provide lunch and sometimes breakfast.  But, there are weekends and many children go hungry for the entire weekend.

If you are a parent and really think about your children crying in hunger, you know that it would break your heart, your spirit and your belief in humanity.  It would be one of the hardest things I can think of to have to be looked down upon, considered lazy and shiftless, not having a job where you can provide for your family.  If you have no way to take a shower and wash your clothes, if you have no transportation, how do you get a job?  If you are lucky enough to find a job, how do you get there?  Have you ever priced all day bus passes?  They are not cheap here in Nashville.  They are $5.00 a day. That is a lot of money when you are making minimum wage.  So, you can eat or go to work.  That is your choice.  It's not a good choice to have to make.

I have been volunteering at the East Nashville Coop Ministry, 807 Main Street, Nashville, cooking food for anyone who is hungry, rich or poor.  The Coop was started by a group of churches and has been in operation since 1965.  If you are in need of a meal, you are welcome!  We will share what we have.  Today is National Cheese Pizza Day.  For lunch, we prepared Pasta e Fagiole, salad and individual small cheese pizzas.  We had a very happy crew of diners to say the least.  The smiles and thank you's make every moment I dice, saute and serve worthwhile.  Hugs and high fives mean so much more when you know you have filled someone's belly with warm, nutritious food and they will sleep better tonight.

We have a food pantry that is stocked by Second Harvest/Feed America.  There are staple items that can be put into food boxes chosen by each client to meet their families needs.  We are not talking about going to the supermarket, but items that will keep hunger at bay for a few days.  They are allowed 3 visits every 6 months.  You know what that means?  They must find other organizations to help fill their food gap.

Our mission is to provide healthy, nutritious food that will make everyone feel better, make their bones and muscles stronger, improve their attitude/outlook and help life on the streets seem a little less formidable.  Some have rooms where they stay, but this service meets their nutritional needs on a daily basis.   Our daily diners deal with more discrimination and derision in a day, than most of us will encounter in a lifetime.  They are all people just like us who want to be loved, appreciated and acknowledged for their simple humanity.  Instead, they are called names - lazy, shiftless, bums, moochers.  Many deal with mental health issues, PTSD, addiction and most of all, homelessness.  It is heartbreaking.  They look out for each other and share what little they may have.  It is really amazing to experience their sense of community.

We have had to cut out breakfast this month because funds are short.  Hopefully, some grants will come in soon that will allow us to return feeding people as they come and go.   We see some diners for breakfast and lunch, some for one meal or the other.  Some come every few days.  Soon, the weather will begin to cool down and then winter will be upon us and that makes their lives so much harder than summer.  They will need coats, scarves, gloves, and blankets.  The need is great and resources are strained.  Jesus said the poor are with your always.  It is our duty to care for orphans, widows and the hungry in our world.  In our abundance, it is up to us to take care of these sweet souls who have met with unfortunate circumstances.  There but for grace goes any one of us or our family members.

If you have any resources at all, share with food banks and clothing banks where you are.  Most of us have way too many things the way it is.  Pillows, blankets, sheets, sleeping blankets and duffel bags are things that are so very useful to anyone living on the street.  Do you have an old tent you no longer use?  Donate it to a shelter.  Old raincoats, ponchos and umbrellas would be so appreciated.

This month is Hunger Awareness Month.  Look around you.  Ask what you can do to help, to make someone's life a little better.  Share what you have.  By donating to Second Harvest/Feed America, they can quadruple your money into food for those in need and hunger.

Restaurants will be having Dine Out for Hunger events all this month.  Watch your local newspapers for information.  By eating at particular restaurants, money will be donated to help fight hunger in America.

Volunteer to help in food pantries and soup kitchens.  Give financial assistance when and where you can, not just at Christmas or Thanksgiving.  Hunger is something that occurs every minute, every day, every week and month of the year.  Do what you can.  Help ease someone's hunger.  Make their day brighter.  Acknowledge them, smile at them, talk to them.  If you see a homeless person on the street, buy them a meal from a fast food restaurant, or purchase some fruit at the store and give it to them.  You could save someone's life.  Remember, it could happen to any of us at any time.  Nothing in life is certain.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

  • -Worldwide, 1.3 billion people live on less than $1 US dollar per day.
  • The United States, despite being one of the wealthiest countries in the world has the highest rate of poverty.
  • Three million Americans, a fourth of which are children, go without shelter every night.
  • Families with children comprise 39% of the homeless population and make up the fastest growing segment of the homeless.
  • One child in five lives below the poverty line in our country, making children the poorest age group in the United States, which accounts for the growing percentage of children who are homeless.
  • Children account for over 25% of the homeless population.
  • Every 53 minutes an American child dies from poverty.
  • Less than 6% of the homeless are that way by choice.
  • Many homeless people are among the working poor. A person earning a minimum wage can't earn enough to support a family of three or pay inner-city rent.
  • About 25 percent of the homeless are estimated to be emotionally disturbed. One percent may need long-term hospitalization; the others can become self-sufficient with help.
  • Some homeless are substance abusers; research suggests one in four. Many of these are included in the 25 percent who suffer from mental illness.
  • The largest proportion of homeless are single men.
  • Illegal immigrants are swelling the ranks of the homeless.
  • Millions are among the hidden homeless people who are one crisis away from losing their homes. They may be doubled or tripled up in housing or 48 hours from eviction or about to leave a hospital with nowhere to go.

 Hunger and Homeless Fact File

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