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Shame on us. September 6, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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It should have been front-page news, but instead, it was buried in a tiny article on page 27 in today’s local paper. Silence Dogood here, with news that says more about the state of our economy (and the disparity between the comfortably off and the poor) than anything else I can think of.

“Number of hungry Americans rises sharply,” the headline read. It went on to say that 17 million Americans went without food last year, repeatedly skipping meals or fasting for whole days because they didn’t have the money to buy food. The Department of Agriculture, in glorious government-speak, described this crisis as suffering “very low food security.” In real language, starving. And I’m sure a fair percentage of those 17 million were children.

Meanwhile, cooking shows showing every kind of excessive consumption are one of the most popular genres on television. (And I’m as guilty of enjoying them when I have an opportunity to watch one as anyone else.) Deep-fried everything, from Kool-Aid to butter and Coca-Cola, have become sensations at state fairs across the nation. Food competitions, in which contestants try to cram down as much of a given food item or an entire meal in as short a time as possible, have become a national sport. And, as we’re reminded at every turn, we’re experiencing a national obesity crisis. Supersized portions of high-fat foods have become our favorite fare.

What does it say about us as a nation that 17 million of our citizens are literally starving while the rest of us are stuffing ourselves?! (And for those who’d self-righteously claim that they don’t overeat—again, I’m guilty here, I actually don’t—and aren’t overweight, think about what you’re eating to avoid that weight gain: expensive seafood and other high-end luxuries that enable you to stay slim? What about those stops at Starbucks for that oh-so-necessary latte, espresso or cappucino, or the ridiculously high-end machines you use to make them at home?)

As the political conventions spar about whether we’re better off today than we were four years ago, 17 million people (and probably more this year) are going without food. It seems to me that it behooves every citizen who is not going without food to rethink our priorities and try to eat less, and less expensively, so that others might eat more. We might try to eat more modestly and donate a day’s worth of food to a soup kitchen every week, or the cash equivalent to a reputable charity whose work is to feed the poor.

I think that part of the problem that allows such widespread hunger to occur in the so-called “land of plenty” is the lack of civic responsibility. Throughout much of the past 2,000 years, it was the role of the Church to feed the poor. (These days, too few people tithe, there are too few church-goers, and far too few priests, monks and nuns to take on the task.) In the past century, it became the role of the government (via food stamps). But despite food stamps (now known by the acronym SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), 17 million people are going hungry here in the United States. It is time that we as citizens stepped up rather than counting on our church or government to solve this problem. Let’s all, please, eat less and give more.

            ‘Til next time,

                         Silence

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