The New York Times tells us this week that 1 in 8 Americans (and 1 in 4 children) is on food stamps. Let’s just let that sink in for a second. That’s a lot of people who need food. That’s us, that’s our neighbors – not just statistics.
The NY Times thinks the stigma around receiving nutrition assistance is fading, but Gawker has written an insightful follow-up pointing out that the comments on the Times article and even quotes in the article itself reveal that there is still a lot of shame and shaming going on when it comes to hunger in America. Here’s yet another piece from the Huffington Post about elders using food pantries that touches on these issues.
Meanwhile, Times of India reports that Americans throw away 40% of food. What is going on America?
Some of us are so hungry that, even if it shames us (though it’s this author’s opinion that there should be no shame in receiving, just as there is no shame in giving), we are seeking assistance to feed ourselves and our families. Others are in need and haven’t reached out for help, trying to make do on their own and suffering.
And yet, others of us are worried that hungry folks are leeching off the system, that they aren’t working hard enough, that they should be shamed into getting off the assistance they need so much. And we’re throwing away food, instead of giving it to those who are going without.
Despite this lingering us-them shame game, the fact that the media is having this conversation, and that people are signing up for assistance in record numbers, could just mean that America is learning to share. Maybe we’re finally discovering together that we have enough food, and that no one should go hungry, and that we can solve this problem – we just have to act like helpful neighbors, not spiteful enemies.
As these articles show, any of us can go hungry and need help. It’ll serve us all better if we can remember that and treat others as we would like to be treated. My mom taught me that (and how to share) when I was a little kid. If little kids can obey the golden rule, and share their toys, adults should be setting a good example and doing the same with food.
What are your thoughts about sharing food? Have you seen hunger in Tompkins County? Have you or people you know gone hungry? Have you helped out at Loaves and Fishes, or participated in food reclamation / waste reduction? How can our community ensure that no one goes hungry – how can we share better? Please leave a comment below.