Every once in a while my big poppa old skool iPod will shuffle to Harry Chapin doing a live version of “Circle.” If you’re a certain age you remember this as a kind of campfire song where everybody takes a turn singing a verse and then the crowd joins in the chorus, but towards the end of this version (The Gold Medal Collection — Disc 2; released 1988) Harry does a tremendous little PSA for his World Hunger Year where he reiterates that we all should put our money where our mouths are and start pulling our fair share in this country, regardless of political affiliation or socioeconomic status. Now he said these words before his death in 1981 but every time I hear them I am awestruck by how pertinent they are today, and how prevalent hunger still is in America in 2012.
I’m lucky: I’ve never gone to bed hungry, and neither has my family. I live in an area where I have access to fresh, high-quality foods, and I have the resources and ability to get pretty much anything I want. This past week I’ve had to do more menu planning than usual so food acquisition has been at the top of my mind. After the shopping came thoughtful preparation, and the realization that I needed to make all my “food out of food.” This will sound funny and a bit self-absorbed, but the week also made me realize that food, at its most basic, is just fuel for the body.
That said, one of the greatest pleasures we humans with corporeal bodies can know is food. Close your eyes and think of the aromas, the textures, the flavors, the anticipation of seeing family and friends gathering together around a favorite meal. And we cannot deny the emotional quotient ~ how the food experience makes us feel. The comfort of home-made chicken soup, the intimacy of lovers making a midnight snack together, baking cookies with your kids are all emotional touch points. Now imagine getting up from your chair now and heading to the ‘fridge or cupboard and finding…..nothing. I’m not talking about how we whine, “There’s nothing to eat in here.” I’m talking about BARE cupboards. The greatest shame of any country is the number of its citizens who don’t have food to eat. And there are more folks out there going without than we imagine.
According to the USDA 49 million people in this country are (euphemistically called) food insecure. Think about your state. Or take it even closer to home, think about your community. Does your house of worship or community center have a food pantry or run food drives? Unfortunately, there is a compelling reason why they do: it’s because our neighbors are stopping by to fill the gaps at the end of the month, or when they’ve had an unexpected expense. If you have an interest, please stop by Feeding America. They do an excellent job dispelling myths about “food insecurity.”
Please remember, our local agencies need donations all year, not just at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The highest honor my family bestowed on me was making a Mother’s Day donation in my name to a local food bank. What better way to honor someone who nurtures (in between the nagging parts). My own little PSA is to remind you that anything you can do at the grass-roots level helps somebody. That can of tuna or box of pasta is more powerful than you realize.