Second Harvest Community Food Bank Blog
Hunger is Here
Ashlee Boner is a guest blogger for Second Harvest Community Food Bank. This blog is a very personal account of how Ashlee became engaged with Second Harvest and our mission.
“Finish eating your dinner, there are starving kids in Africa who would give their right arm for that food.”
When I was a young child this phrase was used daily by my mother as a way to con me into cleaning my plate. Usually the battle was over broccoli or green beans-- two foods that I despised while growing up.
I remember always responding smartly, “Yeah right mom--I wouldn’t give my right pinky for broccoli even if I were starving to death.” To me, the idea that any child would be so willing to eat broccoli that they would sacrifice a body part was pure nonsense.
Eventually I would give in and choke down the vegetables on my plate but not until my mother promised ice cream for dessert. By the time the chocolate fudge topping was brought out, the story of the starving children in Africa was always forgotten.
I was given a tour of Second Harvest Food Bank by the Director of Marketing, Stacy Fisher, a couple of months ago and the experience was very moving. I was stunned when I entered the warehouse. Its enormity overwhelmed me. There were shelves up to the ceiling that were lined with box after box of food. I had expected to see a lot. I mean, Second Harvest services 19 counties--that's a lot of people. But I was shocked by the amount in front of me--surely there cannot be this many people who need help with food.
You can imagine my amazement as Stacy led me through each aisle of food and explained that the warehouse would need to be the size of the Civic Arena in order to sufficiently nourish the 52,000 individuals in our area who suffer from food insecurity -- 20 percent of which are senior citizens and twenty THOUSAND of which are children. My mind was racing--how can this be happening in America, the richest nation in the world. Our leaders give food to other countries where people are starving and McDonalds is serving its two billionth customer--how can there possibly be people in America who don't have food?
I grew up with the notion that I should feel sorry for the starving people in third world countries. Ally Struthers starred in commercials pleading viewers to help feed the kids in Africa. I've seen documentaries outlining a day in the life of starving families in North Korea, China and Mexico. I don't remember seeing any commercials or hearing stories about families going without food in America.
I know that I must sound ridiculous but please believe me when I say I am not that naive. I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I am fully aware of the fact that there are millions of Americans who struggle financially, especially considering the current state of our nation’s economy. I grew up in a small farming town where a family was considered rich if they had more than one vehicle. My mother never worked due to a disability so my parents raised me and my sister off of one meager income. I know what it's like to feel embarrassment in the lunch line when asked to hand over the special “free or reduced lunch” card. We never had nice cars, nice furniture or cool toys. We didn't eat out unless it was at Pizza Hut and only if we had a "Book It" coupon for a free personal pizza. We didn’t have very much-- but we were never hungry.
That day at Second Harvest I read a quote from an 8 year old girl, "Sometimes my dad doesn’t pack me a snack because he doesn’t have enough money, so what I do is drink water from the fountain until my stomach is full. That’s what I do.”
Reading this quote certainly gave me a new perspective on the word “poor”. It made me understand the purpose behind my mother’s stories about the starving kids in Africa; she wanted me to stop and think about how lucky I was to have food on my plate and to consider the children in the world who feel hunger so strongly that they would eat something as horrible as broccoli. It also made me realize how important it is to raise awareness about food insecurity in America because the fact of the matter is that hunger in America is unacceptable. Even though there is government assistance and food kitchens all over the country, there are children in our schools who don’t have food when they go home at night and moms and dads who skip meals so that their kids get something. There are elderly people who have to cut their pills in half in order to have enough money to eat. In the same country where the Food Network was born and where government leaders and celebrities eat lavish, multi-course meals daily, there are people struggling to get through the day on an empty stomach, and who battle to remain strong despite the hunger they constantly face.
Tonight when my kids fight with me about eating the vegetables on their plate, I will tell them about the hungry people in our own country and hope that they understand how lucky they are to have food on their plate. Hunger is here---please, be a part of the solution.
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