Hunger isn’t relegated to the Third World. Here in the USA, we often refer to hunger as “food insecurity”, which is a great term for it. We don’t have famines here, and acute starvation isn’t often found. But many families struggle to put food on the table, or wonder where their next meal is coming from at some point during the year.
Friends, this is a personal issue.
When I lived in Africa, I saw the faces of “traditional” hunger: skin stretched across bones, wispy orangish-blond hair, swollen bellies, and stunted frames. But the hunger I see here in the USA is every bit as heartbreaking, because it is so easily preventable.
One out of six households in America is food insecure. In the county where I live in Iowa, the overall food insecurity rate is 14.2%, and the child food insecurity rate is 23.8% (Feeding America). We are surrounded by endless fields of corn and soybeans, and gardens dot the yards of the affluent and working poor alike. We literally have corn fields in the middle of town (Iowa stereotype, check). And yet, enough healthy food is inaccessible to thousands.
The face of food insecurity in America is bizarre. You might see and overweight family going into a food pantry, or one with a decent car and cell phone. Before you judge, understand that often times, hunger is fleeting. It might be a few months of the year, or a few weeks. Or they might have family who is helping out in some way. Please don’t ever say to me “Well, THOSE people have a cell phone! They don’t NEED to come to the food pantry!” It’s the paradigm of the “working poor”.
The most disturbing reality of food insecurity in the USA is that Americans throw away 40% of our food. (http://www.nrdc.org/food/files/wasted-food-ip.pdf)
So, as Christians, what do we do about this?
“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.” Matthew 25:35
As Christians, we are called to be good stewards of the earth, and to care for those in need. Are we doing a good job of that? The issues here aren’t cut and dried, and there are no easy solutions.
“She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.” Proverbs 31:20
However, I’m a firm believer of simplification. Of scaling back my own ecological footprint to lessen the impact on others. I’m also a firm believer of gardening. It’s an skill that’s being lost in this age of information and screen time. But in places like Iowa, it’s the key to improving food security. I’m a believer of pitching in and helping your neighbor.
I guarantee you that food insecurity exists in your community, even if it’s hidden among the large houses and SUVs. What is your church community doing to address it? What is your family doing? I’m passionate about this issue, and I challenge you to make it a priority if your church community isn’t addressing hunger. Because the simplest way of ministering to someone is to offer them a meal, especially when they are hungry.
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sister, you were doing it to me.” Matthew 25:40
And in all honesty, I grew up in an occasionally food insecure family. And in Africa, I lived with a family that was chronically food insecure. So this really is a personal issue. But one that affects millions in the most affluent country on earth.