Monday, August 4, 2008

Keeping an eye out for each other

Received some troubling mail recently, again from the state foodbank. Apparently they have a program in place in which they send backpacks filled with food home every weekend during the school year with children who otherwise would not have anything to eat until school starts the following Monday. The fact that such a program is necessary is troubling in and of itself, but I am glad that it exists for those who need it. Even more troubling, however, are the struggles that the foodbank itself appears to be having.

The price per filled backpack is not too high, and it is filled with enough food for two days. That said, on the donation form, donors are asked to send enough money to support a) 8 children b)11 children c) 17 children. Of course, they leave a blank for your choice, as well as places for a monthly gift or matching employer's contribution or a place to use your credit card instead of sending a check. They indicate, though not verbatim, that anything you send would be a good thing. What bothers me is that they feel it necessary to start with sending enough for eight children. Not something like "Would you like to help a child make it through a difficult weekend? If you are able, it would be great if you could help even more..." To me, that indicates that there is a huge need out there, and in this case it highlights the effects on those who can do little about about it--the children. I'm sure that they are always affected, but it seems especially disturbing that they would have nothing at all to eat for two days if it weren't for this kind of help.

These kinds of problems aren't limited to our area, either. Everywhere you look, people are struggling to make ends meet. This article talks about difficulties that a particular food pantry is having, as does this one. In these cases, there is a shortage of donations--after all, the high prices in our economy affect everyone, even those who in previous circumstances were able to help with the supply (a fact that is also mentioned in at least one of the above articles.). There is higher demand, with less supply, and that means that more people are going hungry. That's one way that organizational help might fail (despite every good intention) in their efforts to help those in need.

It hasn't come to this in our country, that I know of, but in this article about Haiti we learn that there is food available, but there are problems in getting it distributed, which leaves the same result as no food in the warehouses--no food for the hungry. This article, while focusing on Britain, gives a good comparison chart for how prices are going up all over the place, in some places (food-wise) faster than they are here in the U.S., and it makes sense to me that a natural consequence to higher-priced food is an increase in the number of people who go hungry.

So what is my point? If you are still reading, :) I guess it's this: if we are in a position to help, hopefully we will. We may not be able to donate to a food bank, but if we have a few extra ears of corn in the garden, maybe we can leave them over the fence for a neighbor who is having some difficulty. Maybe we can invite our children's friend over for a pb&j sandwich picnic one weekend if we think it would be helpful, or have a family from the neighborhood over to share a watermelon. You get the idea. In my experience, people don't advertise when they are having difficulties--it's painful enough in the first place without making it public knowledge. We don't have to spell out what we are doing. And hey, even if it were to turn out that we were wrong--that there really was no need--what is the harm in building stronger neighborhoods, which could help everyone when a real crisis occurs? And if we are the only ones standing between our neighbors and hunger, whether it is a supply/demand problem, or an isolation problem where no food is getting through, I hope that we will have prepared ourselves enough to be able to share. It may not be for a long time--days, and not weeks or months--that we need to help each other, but even days would seem like forever if you have no food for you or your children.

There are more structured ways to prepare your neighborhood for emergencies, one of which I need to learn more about. With more knowledge comes more posts... :) But in any case, I hope that we will keep an eye out for each other. If you are already in a situation that makes putting anything aside difficult, please just do the best that you can. If you are in a position to stock up on a larger scale, please do so. You never know when things could get worse and what you have been able to put aside will help your family. And it may not be just family that needs your help when an emergency comes. We need to keep an eye out for each other. It's part of what makes our country so great, and something that would benefit other countries as well. United we stand.


The Scavenger said...

Marie, I have thought forever that if everyone would just help their neighbor, no one would ever be in need. Sometimes it's the ones that you may not think need help that do!! I have known folks that seem to be ok and they are far from it, when you have 2 car payments, kids in school and a house payment you need help these days. So it's not just the ones that look as if they have nothing that needs the help. Those that appear to be well off may be the neediest people in the neighborhood.

Ron said...

It sure is good to get to know neighbors and to share ideas, labor and produce. In many ways, I think it is necessary in a rural area.

It would be nice to resurrect the victory gardens that carried America through WWII. The amount of food grown during that time in backyards was amazing!


Marie said...

Chris--You make a good point. I think that a lot of the time it is easier to help than be helped, and that's why some people never let on that they need help. I guess in those cases, we just have to guess and do what we can.

Ron--I think that sometimes the ideas are the most important things to share--the old "teach a man to fish" story. Of course, we might also have to share our produce while they wait for theirs to grow. I have heard about the victory gardens before--they provided a really high percentage of the food that was available. I'd like to have that kind of success myself.

Thanks to you both for your comments--they are always appreciated!