IT IS MORE THAN A MEAL
What does food mean to you? What does food mean to the average person? Obviously it provides needed sustenance to allow our bodies to grow and function and remain healthy. But often it also is the center of our social and societal interactions.
Think about your first date; it was probably dinner (and maybe a movie). Think about dinner around the table with the family; discussing school, work, or other weighty matters. Think about the fun of Dad making pancakes on the weekend while Mom got some Saturday sleep. Think about Thanksgivings and Hanukkahs, and Christmases where the extended family gathered for the big meal.
Now think about hunger. Think about what it is like to go without a meal. How many times have all of us innocently said, “Boy I’m starving!” because lunch is an hour late or dinner isn’t ready when we are? What would it like to really be starving and knowing that no, Dad or Mom isn’t going to get food on the table in just a few minutes.
Think about a snow day that cancels school and the contrast between the children thrilled to have a day off to play in the snow and the children who will not eat lunch, and maybe breakfast, because school is where they get fed.
Food is a centerpiece of our lives for most of us reading this.
Hunger is the centerpiece of the lives of many of the people that we serve. I don’t need to tell you that food insecurity impacts 1 in 7 families in America today and 1 in 5 children. I don’t have to tell you that a lack of adequate nutrition impacts children’s ability to learn and adult’s ability to earn.
But food insecurity and hunger destroy more than the body. They destroy community, family, and dignity. They prevent people from participating in the social and societal norms that we reflected on earlier. Hunger not only destroys the body – it destroys the soul.
That is why we at St. Vincent de Paul Georgia begin our Mission Statement with the words “Respecting the dignity of each person…” We recognize that it is not enough to give food to someone. We believe that we must acknowledge their humanity and dignity. Our service is provided through human to human interaction and engagement that recognizes the person as well as the need; whether it be having their utility bill paid, providing clothing or household goods, or helping with food.
Who are the hungry? They are us. They are your neighbors, maybe your relatives, maybe you. They are the ones that people turn away from, the ones people cross the street to get away from, the ones that we avoid. Too often society assumes that if we ignore the poor then they will just go away.
Therefore we must ensure that our service to people in need, whatever it may be and in whatever form it takes, must be an acknowledgment of the humanity of each person and a celebration of their lives in a way that respects their dignity and rejects the assumption that ignoring them will make them go away.
Many organizations, like mine, fight against hunger every day. We count pallets of food, we organize our truck fleets, we deal with the wonderful partners and friends who help us put food on the tables of those who are hungry.
As we do those things let us not forget that the meal we help provide is so very much more than a plate of food that gives strength and nutrition. That meal is dignity. It is respect. It is family. We must do what we do, every day, with love and with the knowledge that our impact is more than pounds and pallets. It is humanity at its best.
For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. I was naked and you clothed me.
St. Vincent de Paul Georgia