Food insecurity. Who the heck coined that phrase? Why did they think we should call it food insecurity instead of hunger? Is it ok to say children in third world and developing countries are hungry, but not in the US? I had not much thought about the euphemism for hunger much until the other day. Last week our county food bank received two $50,000 grants. One of the reasons given was that 21% of the children in our county experience food insecurity, AKA hunger.
I hate to admit I was surprised at that number, but I was. Montana ranks 38th in median household income and 45 in per capita income. Those are pretty dismal figures. Knowing that it should not come as a surprise that children are going to bed hungry here. I suspect many others do as well.
My times we think of children who are hungry in this country having parents who less than great. By that I mean, they are alcoholics and drug addicts and not capable of providing a good home life for their children. I am sure that a part of that 21% is made of homes like that, but I suspect it is not the majority of those children.
I have lived in many communities where the available jobs and wages are not enough to support a single person, let alone a family. Resort communities, agriculture communities, communities with influxes of people with large amounts of disposable income made elsewhere that skew the cost of living, and towns where the major employer has packed up and left; all have families who struggle. Sometimes we don’t realize they struggle. Mom and/or Dad both work full time, but unfortunately the wage scale doesn’t stretch far enough. Often time those parents hold a second and third job, sacrificing time with their family. They are the working poor. Because they are working we don’t often give thought to the fact that even with two jobs they may not be making enough to support their family.
We see that family as a working family getting by. Odds are they are part of the 21%. We only see them from the outside. We have no idea what is in the cupboard and refrigerator. They may need to turn to the food bank when rent comes due and the dollars in the family budget don’t support both shelter and food. The family knows staying in their home is critical and that wins out. They imagine that being homeless is worse than hunger. Even with help from the food bank the family really has to stretch their creativity to make it all work, so the children don’t go without.
The generosity of others by giving these two grants has served as a reminder not all poverty or need for help will be obvious. It is so much easier to see homelessness or lack of warm clothing. The media loves those because they make “great” pictures. Pictures grab us all, all they allow us to imagine that situation. That empathy and concern generates generosity on our part. Hunger is somewhat invisible. How do you capture that and share it? I am not sure of the answer.
What I do know is that the grants to our community and the days it has taken me to write this blog have been moments of great reflection for me. Hunger is not glamorous, nor will it pull at heartstrings like puppies and kittens, but it is very real. It is only by the grace of God that I have not had to tap into that resource. I leave you with these thoughts.
“For it is in giving that we receive.” ― St. Francis of Assisi
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” Mother Teresa