Hunger in Abundance
Food is something that most of us take for granted, something easily attainable with a quick run to the store or local restaurant, yet for many of our neighbors this is not the reality. In “The Message” video that I put out on March 26th I talked in some detail about the sheer scale of hunger in our country and world and the disparity between being the richest country in the world and yet so many go hungry. For this article, I’d like to zero in on a couple related statistics and topics that bring it all closer to home. The people who study hunger and food insecurity reference what they call a “food insecurity rate” which translates to a percentage of those who do not have adequate or consistent access to food as a percentage of the total population. The national average food insecurity rate is around 10 to 11% of the population (which is millions of people). But did you know that 22.3% of Louisa County residents are food insecure, with the highest rates being Cuckoo-Bumpass (35.6%) and Jackson-Holly Grove (28.9%) …that’s almost 3 times more than the national average! Now there are many reasons why people are going hungry, unemployment or under-employment, health issues, transportation and access issues, etc. and each of those has additional underlying contributors which we don’t have the time or space to discuss in this article…yet must be addressed. Americans, on average, spend less on food than any other country in the world which is about 10% of our income compared to 40% in 1900. All this is thanks to our industrialized food system and the constant race to the bottom for lower and lower prices on consumer goods. This, on face value, seems like a good thing doesn’t it? Yet in our pursuit of lower prices on our food and other retail goods we have become complicit in the destruction of many of the things we miss from the “good old days.” No longer do we have the local “mom and pop” retailers and family farms that provided living wages and community connectiveness. Farmers, constantly being squeezed on both ends by the high cost of the machinery and chemicals needed to produce more to overcome the dropping sale prices of their products could no longer afford to pay competitive wages and so they turned to immigrant labor. The manufacturing industries where many farm kids found good middle-class jobs in the cities have also fallen victim to this race to the bottom, as they were outsourced to countries where labor was cheap…or worse. For example, our love of cheap seafood (particularly shrimp), chocolate, coffee, and other goods is sustained and produced by slave labor in Thailand and other countries, so in affect your decisions at the grocery store and other stores can help support slavery and human trafficking. I know that it is shocking and horrible, yet it is true, and we can work to change both the horrors found there, and the hunger found here by changing the way we consume and think about food.
- We need to always remember that food is a gift and blessing of God and needs to be treated as such. Pray before each meal for the food, and for all those who made it possible for you to enjoy it.
- Buy Local whenever possible.
- Spend More, buy less. Buy food and goods that are ethically sourced, local, or better quality. Buy things that will last, not be just thrown away. We are commanded by God in Genesis to be good stewards of all creation, not turn it into a giant landfill.
- Return to your roots, grow a garden, teach others to grow a garden and to enjoy its fruits.
- Advocate and support policies that help fight the root causes of hunger: poverty, education, healthcare, rehabilitation and social services, etc.
- Create and Support church mission programs to address education, hunger, skills training, medical care, and transportation along with the spiritual programs.
Christians and people of faith are called by God to uplift and help those around us who are in need, not just spiritually but physically as well. It is hard to think of your soul when your stomach is empty, and poverty and hunger lead to desperation and all sorts of evils. We can do our part individually in our shopping habits, collectively in our voices, and together with our hands and feet in mission work in the community. We must become a mission driven church, seeking justice and equity for our neighbors, lifting up the least among us so that they may one day lift us up as well. It will take work, but together and with Christ we can, and we must, feed his sheep and bind their wounds. Amen.
Peace be with you always,