A Place at the Table: Days 32 and 33

Sunday – Monday: As a feast day, Sunday lost some of its luster this week. I’m not sure why, exactly. Perhaps even feast days become routine after awhile.  Everything I ate was wonderful, including my weekly pizza fix at our church fellowship meal.  One of our church members made Irish stew as well, and that was warm, hearty treat indeed for St. Patty’s Day.

After lunch, we finished up our discussion of the A Place at the Table documentary.  The film gets political toward the end in ways I wish it didn’t. Any time you have “experts” saying “the only way to fix problem X is solution Y,” you move away from raising awareness to advocating for something other than the issue.  I do believe the federal government has a prominent role to play in fixing the problem of food insecurity.  The problem exists, in no small part, because of policies and priorities involving federal agricultural subsidies, coupled with the de-funding of our public safety nets.  The ideological belief that private, non-governmental charities can take care of (or should be able to take care of) the needs of the needy has been the political rule of thumb for at least a quarter century now.  Unfortunately, that belief has not been validated.  One of the most startling revelations in the documentary is that since 1980 the number of food banks/pantries in the United States has ballooned (I’m trusting my memory here) from 200 to 40,000.  Yet, within that same time frame, the number of Americans who are hungry has more than doubled.  Clearly food banks are not the solution.  Charity is not the solution.  But neither is government intervention alone. One of the valid criticisms my class leveled at the film is that no one from corporate America was interviewed.  Corporate America is going to have to be invited to the table (pun intended) to be both engaged and challenged by the citizens of our country if viable solutions to food insecurity are to be found.  Corporations produce and/or distribute most of our food. Change, therefore, will only come about as a joint endeavor of the public and private sectors.

On Monday, my fast resumed as usual – save for one very interesting experience.  While I was cooking my lunch, I spilled some green beans as I was putting the bag back in the freezer. I would have been annoyed at such a spill under any circumstances – if for no other reason than the aggravation of having to clean it up – but my heart leapt in ways that I didn’t expect. The reason was that I realized these green beans were the only ones I’d have for the entire week.  Thankfully, the spill was small and I don’t think I’ll have to make any adjustments because of it. If I hadn’t caught the bag, though, I could have lost them all – or been forced to pick them up off the floor and use them anyway.  It drove home for me the reality that thoughts like, “Oh well, it’s just a few frozen beans” are privileges the poor do not have the luxury to have.

Lord, please provide for the needy “their food in due season” (Psalm 145.15). And help us to find ways to work together to solve the very solvable problem of hunger in our midst.  Amen.

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