Imagine this scenario: You are hungry. It's been a long day, and you just pulled into the shopping center, planning to grab dinner at your favorite noodle house. You've already decided what you are going to order, what appetizer you are going to get, and what you want to drink. You might even splurge and get dessert, but you will wait and see how you feel after your eat. Sounds pretty normal, right? Nothing too extreme about this picture.
Ok, now, let's spin it. This time, when you walk in, I step out from behind the counter and inform you that you wont be able to eat here tonight. I explain that it's just not possible, and really, there is nothing I can do. You should leave. Furthermore, I explain, you won't be able to eat anywhere tonight. All restaurants are closed -- but just to you. You look around and see that others are eating, but food is out of reach for you, and you alone. And you're hungry.
For most of us, that doesn't sound like a great night. When we're hungry, we expect to eat. In fact, we expect to be able to eat whatever we want.
Eating when we are hungry -- or, as many of us like to say, when we are "starving" -- is easily taken for granted. It's so normal for us to get food when we want it, and most of us find a way to get it when we need it. However, more people than you might realize, and maybe even someone you know, does not have this luxury. Food insecurity exists in every single county in the U.S. If you aren't one of the people struggling to find food to eat, I can assure you that someone geographically close to you is, at this very moment, actually starving.
This is no small deal. This is a huge deal! After all, what is more important to your survival (and your family's survival) than food? This hunger issue has a lot to do with unemployment levels, the economy in general, and indeed with the personal financial and life choices of individuals. Still, the bigger picture indicates that in this land of opportunity, for many, it's just not working out.
This isn't your fault, or mine, but it is a real chance for us to help. You don't need much money to help; you just need time. You can volunteer, you can fund raise, or you can literally wait at the checkout stand at your local grocery store until you see someone who is using food stamps, and offer to chip in. It's always going to be easier to look the other way, but when someone looks the other way with you, it will be too late. If you have the power to make a difference now -- even a little bit -- consider yourself lucky, and go for it.
I know that all anyone needs to be generous and thoughtful is a little push. People are good, and want to help. But it's often hard to know where to start. I say, start simple, with the obvious: with the people in your everyday world. Picking up the check for someone who is obviously in need will not only help put them on track, it will give you the joy that lies in helping others who are facing the hunger issue.
And if you are someone facing hunger insecurity right now, I assure you, there is help out there for you, and huge groups of people thinking about how to most effectively remedy the hunger issue. You are not alone, and there is a hot meal around the corner. Hang in there.
Feeding America. Gundersen, G., Waxman, E., Engelhard, E., & Brown, J. Map the Meal Gap, 2011.