In spite of years of living thinly, columnist and blogger Donna Freedman has always managed to find money to donate to good causes. She keeps the spare change she finds all year, adds it up, adds a bit more on top of that, and writes a check to a food pantry or homeless shelter for the amount. That spare change allows her to stretch her ability to donate, and the money allows the shelters and pantries to buy food in bulk when the need is there, which is pretty much a year-round situation these days.
No longer are we hearing about food giveaways just at the holidays. Pantries are receiving double and triple the number of requests from previous years, and the increased demand stems not from the chronic poor, but from formerly middle and upper-middle class families who are used to having homes, jobs and nice possessions, but have lost most or all of them to unemployment, loss of health insurance and the rising cost of food, gas and rents.
I happen to live in a nice area. Homes are a mix between 1960s two-bedroom cottages and McMansions on the water, with everything in between. It’s a neat bedroom community with low crime and attentive, caring neighbors. This is one of the more expensive counties in the state in terms of cost of living. Yet, with all the wealth, the resident celebrities, the mansions, yachts and golf courses, the hungry and needy are not far away. There are 125 agencies in the county that help feed the needy, according to the local United Way. You don’t need to go far to find hunger in this town.
I’d like to join Donna in asking you to step outside your world for a minute. No matter how little you have, someone else has less than you. Someone is lying awake nights, wondering what’s for dinner tomorrow, and it has nothing to do with making a choice, because there is no choice when there is no food. Imagine your pantry with nothing in it. Imagine your refrigerator as an empty space. Imagine deciding between the utility bill and breakfast food. For the over 50 million Americans living with poverty and food insecurity, there’s nothing to imagine; it’s all much too real.