Monday, November 8, 2010

Hunger in America

The Phila. Inquirer recently ran another in an occasional series about hunger. It turns out, this one Congressional District in Phila. is probably the poorest in the entire country. The statistics are staggering. Welfare and food stamps often do not cover the necessary expenses of rent, utilities, etc., and food for a family. By the third week of the month, people, including children, are struggling just to have something to stave off starvation. Food pantries offer some help, but they only have so many resources. Their supplies are down while demand had dramatically risen.

So what should we think, what should we do? It's so easy to have a knee-jerk reaction and think someone is at fault for not working. However, in this economy, if you're without a job for any reason (say, a layoff) it's not easy to find another job - not with unemployment around 9.6%. A person or family may not be able to just pack up and move to another area to try to find work. And what about the children? It's not their fault, and many parents the Inquirer has written about try to see that their children eat first, and they eat if there's something left. Making sure children get proper nutrition is critical for their long-term development. School lunch and breakfast programs are crucial, and more should be done for them.

What should we do? First, I guess we should NEVER take our food for granted and should be thankful for it. Second, we can support local food banks, food pantries and related programs. Third, we also should work to see the government strengthen the safety net and patch some of those holes that are in it.

Aren't we taught to care for our neighbors? It just seems somewhat out of whack to me that we have those struggling just to survive and others having such luxurious lives. While it's unrealistic and impossible to eliminate all economic disparity, we should at least see that the most vulnerable among us get enough food to thrive and that the children get a good start. It's the right thing to do.