Hunger

I’ve written about this before.  Other places.  Other times.  I’ve talked about it until I’m sick of hearing my own voice.  So I leave the subject behind and move on to other things.

But it comes back.  It’s impossible to ignore.

This is the United States.  Scratch that.  The country really and truly is irrelevant.  This is the 21st Century.  There’s just no excuse for people going hungry on this planet.  We have enough farmers.  We have enough food.  We have airplanes and ships and trucks and trains to get food to every corner of the globe.

If there is anything that should considered a “right” in this world — even if it’s not ‘the right to vote’ or the ‘right of free speech’ — it should be the right to be free from hunger.  Free speech, the vote, the pursuit of happiness, the right to marry the person of our choice — all of those are far down the line if you’re constantly hungry and missing basic nutrients.

And if you’re a child — all the other freedoms are non-existent if you are malnourished and can’t concentrate, learn, or sleep at night because of hunger.

And while we all share the shame of people on 6 continents living with hunger — this is the USA, and the shame of allowing our neighbors to go hungry is tripled.  We grow so much food here that we have to warehouse it.  We give it away all over the world — yet we can’t muster the conscience to share it here, first.  We have public land in every city and state that could be used to grow public gardens — free for the taking to anyone who is hungry — but we don’t do it.

Because we don’t have the desire to make sure children are fed?

Because we’ve created a bureaucracy so wide and deep that it doesn’t function?

Because we’ve elected officials who believe their job is to be stingy and make sure corporation profits are nurtured before individual children?

Because somebody has set up a false equivalency between hard work and wealth?

Because someone has convinced us that people suffer because they are sinful or lazy or criminal?

Because we’re all in this for ourselves, and to hell with anybody else?

Because we really believe that if someone is hungry or poor — it’s their own fault and their own responsibility?

Is that really what we believe?  How can a child — a single parent — someone recovering from a catastrophic illness — someone disabled, or disabled by trauma — how can any of us at the bottom of a well of despair be so at fault or guilty that we deserve to go hungry?

Especially when there is food everywhere.

Especially when there are so many with enough, and more than enough.

What I always come back to is just how lucky I am.  I have enough — but it’s good fortune that makes that true.  I’ve been through periods when there was no good fortune.  It wasn’t because I was guilty of some crime — or too stupid to survive.  Sometimes the bottom falls out and there’s no ladder in sight to get out of the hole.  Especially if you don’t have a family.  Especially if you’re a single parent.  Especially if you are sick, or depressed, or a child, or mentally disabled, or physically disabled — or just alone.

How can we let this go on?

How can we give money to corporations or the military or anything else in the world, but not make sure there is food available to people who are hungry?

How can we support politicians who consistently vote to fund ANYTHING before they fund an end to hunger?

How do we end hunger?  Here are some ideas that are floating around out there — all good.  All do-able.

1.  Public gardens.  Farm-parks.  We pay people to do landscaping and care of public parks — let’s turn them into gardens with fruit trees, nut trees etc that we can pick from as we enjoy the park.

2.  School gardens.  Teach children biology and botany by using all that lawn-space to grow veggies they can take home at the end of the day.

3.  Neighborhood gardens.  Every apartment building, neighborhood, and community needs dedicated plots of land that can be used by residents to grow whatever they wish.  Give each family a 12×12′ garden to tend and use as they wish.  If they don’t claim their garden, that land can be allotted to another resident or family.

4.  There are some children who only eat the free breakfast and lunches at school each day — but go home to hunger and a hungry and uncomfortable night  in between.  There should be bagged meals available every day as they leave school.  Even if it’s just a piece of fruit, a sandwich, a small can of V-8, and a shelf-stable carton of milk, they should have something to get them through until the next day.

5.  Public buildings (fire stations, libraries, post offices, court houses, schools, city halls, boys & girls clubs, YMCAs etc.) and religious property should all have pantries where people could pick up a day’s worth of food if they are in need, no questions asked.

6. All those corners where people stand, asking for food and assistance should become dedicated corner kiosks (small closet-sized shelters) — overseen by the homeless.  Let them hand out food to anyone who comes by who needs it and asks for it.

7.  We need to stop trying to make people account for what they need.

— I’ve never really understood the impulse to make people prove what they need.  What is it we’re afraid they’re going to do with extra bread or milk or cheese or peanut butter?  Let people take what they can use.

If we really think they’re going to sell it (to whom will they sell if it’s available to everyone?) or waste it — then bag it up in 1 person/1 day bags.  Or 1 child/1 day bags.   Or 1 family of 3/1 week boxes.

8.  Make corporations that create food that has a short shelf life (like bakeries) tax exempt –> if, instead of creating discount stores on-site to get rid of their over-production — we make their tax-exemption dependent on having a store full of product discounted to $0.00.

9.  Give community recognition/preference to any restaurant, cafe, coffee shop, bar, or fast-food establishment or grocery store that furnishes meals, ingredients, service to people who need assistance.  Make it a point of public policy to publicly recognize, award, and publish businesses who participate. (and those who don’t.)

The point is — we have the food.  We have the empty stomachs.  We just need the will to put the 2 together.

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