Today, over 150 food bloggers are joining with The Giving Table and the makers of the film “A Place at the Table” to speak out against hunger by donating a post. I am thrilled to be able to join them.
There’s a long hallway in one of the buildings in Philadelphia that takes you to the street. Once you exit the building, you’re right across from Reading Terminal Market where those with money can buy just about anything their heart desires to eat on the spot or to make at home.
Whenever I walk through that long hallway with my youngest son, he always stops at a certain spot and says, “This is where I gave the homeless man my cheesesteak.”
My kids have never known hunger personally. They’ve never eaten food bought with food stamps. They’ve never looked in the refrigerator or the cabinet and found there was nothing to eat. Oh sure, they frequently say there’s nothing to eat, but all that really means is that we’re out of cookies.
My kids have seen hunger, but it’s always been on the city streets in the eyes of the type of people they give their half-eaten cheesesteaks to. They’ve never seen it in someone’s home, though. It’s hard for them to wrap their heads around the fact that a kid could live in a house or an apartment but open up his refrigerator to find it empty — not because his parents were too busy to get to the grocery store so they had to bring home yet again another pizza, but because there was just no money for food.
Two years ago, my boys and I spent part of the summer volunteering at the local food bank. We emptied endless boxes and bags of donated food and put them on shelves. My sons would be in the warehouse when organizations came to take the food from the shelves to take to food pantries, and we had a lot of opportunity to talk about who would be receiving the food. Much of it went over my youngest’s head at the time (he had just turned 9). But it really sank in with my oldest son who was almost 12.
I asked him for permission to reprint part of an essay he wrote for school about the time he spent volunteering.
Last summer, I volunteered at The Food Bank of South Jersey with my mom and my little brother. We went once every other week for four hours at a time so that we could help the people in South Jersey who needed food but couldn’t afford it. I hadn’t realized that people were in such need of food in our area, considering the fact that this is a fairly wealthy region. I now know how important The Food Bank is to the rest of New Jersey who needs it. It doesn’t require hard work, either.
When I signed my family up to work at the food bank, I did so because I wanted us to do something meaningful with our summer, and I wanted my boys to understand that hunger doesn’t just look like the homeless man in the hallway in Philadelphia that you give your half-eaten cheesesteak to. It can look just like they look. It can be a kid in a house in our own seemingly affluent town who opens his refrigerator to find it empty.
My oldest son learned what I hoped he would learn. Now that my younger son is two years older, I hope that some time at the food bank this upcoming summer might resonate with him.
Today, as a food blogger against hunger, I’d like to encourage you, if you have children who are old enough to volunteer at a food bank, to plan some volunteer time into your summer schedule. The age requirements vary from organization to organization, but even if a child’s not old enough to truly comprehend who the food is helping, he or she may be old enough to put cans of soup on a shelf.
If volunteering isn’t something you’re able to do this summer, I have another way you can make a difference in less than one minute. As you probably know, there are some in Washington who want to cut funding for nutrition programs that feed our hungry children. Share our Strength is asking everyone to sign a letter to their senators and representatives asking them to “protect funding for federal nutrition programs, including SNAP, WIC, and school meals."
In less than a minute, you can add or your name to the letter and let your representatives know that don’t want the budget balanced on the backs of hungry kids.