Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hunger--and I don't mean waiting for the turkey to be done.

I’ve spent the day beginning my Thanksgiving preparations--picking up a much-too-big turkey, baking cranberry and pumpkin breads, and chopping ingredients for the stuffing. Today, I’m off from work, distant from the reality that I confront everyday at my job, which is to help people who live in a world of food insecurity. I manage Family Table, which is Greater Boston’s largest kosher food pantry and a program of Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Family Table, not unlike other organizations has experienced an overwhelming increase in demand over the past several years as the economic downturn has pushed many people to seek our help. We are currently feeding 300 families every month, a 60% increase over the last two years.

Recently, Project Bread, the state's leading anti-hunger organization, released data, which indicate that approximately 8.3% of all Massachusetts households are “food insecure.” Food insecurity refers to “the ability of people to obtain sufficient food for their household. Some people may find themselves skipping meals or cutting back on the quality or quantity of food they purchase at the stores. This recurring and involuntary lack of access to food can lead to malnutrition over time.”1 Further, Project Bread’s statistics show that nearly half of these food insecure households are at the extreme end of the hunger spectrum, as we know it in this country. In these homes people are suffering from “food insecurity with hunger” which is defined by the actual physical and painful feeling that results from a lack of food.

As I write, numerous organizations around the Commonwealth and around country are busy putting together Thanksgiving meals so that our neighbors who are hungry will be able to enjoy a hearty holiday meal. At Family Table, we did our part by providing our recipients with gift cards to purchase a kosher turkey, in addition to the groceries that we provide every month. But we all know that after Thanksgiving is over, these families will once again face the painful choices that they must make when they look at a bare cupboard. Do they buy food and forgo medicine? Do they skip meals so that their children can eat? Do they opt for inexpensive, less nutritious alternatives at the grocery store just to put food on the table?

I would urge you to remember these families everyday, not just at the holidays. The most important thing that you can do (beyond making financial contributions) is to donate nutritious food to these organizations on a regular basis. When you are doing your own grocery shopping pick up a little extra, and remember the basics: cans of tuna, low salt vegetables and beans, whole grain pasta, brown rice, and low salt soups. These are the kinds of items that truly help a family in need feed their children a nutritious meal. Your regular contributions to Family Table, the Needham Community Council, and other food pantries and food banks truly matter. Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!

1 Hunger and Food Insecurity in the United States, The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)

1 comment:

  1. Sue, thank you for this. I hope your post inspires folks to sign up for the Greater Boston Food Bank volunteer project on Tikkun Olam Day morning, Sunday, March 27, 2011. This event is fun and educational -- this will be our second year at GBFB, we had a great time last year. John