Continuing my thoughts on October as Fairtrade month, I have been considering the human rights side of food access. On October 24th, I’ll be attending the Greater Franklin Food Council Meeting at the University of Maine Extension Franklin County Office. Lisa Laflin, Executive Director of United Way of the Tri-Valley Area, asked invitees to bring new people who should be part of this conversation. If you are interested, reach out to Lisa for more information. Lisa is knowledgeable, passionate and dedicated to helping alleviate food insecurity.
At this time of year, when thinking of food insecurity as it relates to our right to food, I think of the many who lack access to the table. Food insecurity is the “state of being without reliable access to sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” Solutions only want for imagination and the will to address the need to feed all.
Working years ago for Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit working to eradicate child hunger, I frequently presented to interested sponsors on opportunities to fund programming and would be armed with statistics and other data. I would talk about what it is to know food insecurity by relating my own story and share stories from children who suffer from hunger. As a child, I knew food insecurity. I thought I compared well to the plight of hungry children. I’d tell of children who go to bed unable to sleep due to hunger pain. They don’t do well in school because food deprivation elicits sharp, penetrating stomach pain.
However, it wasn’t until I suffered a health crisis that initially only allowed me to drink bone broth or milk and eat eggs and cheese that I indeed knew hunger and the intense pain behind the stories I had shared so many years previous. The food I could eat is not regularly available outside of one’s home, so I rarely traveled and attended only meetings close to home. It was after one such meeting that ran late that I came to know the agonizing pain of hunger. The pain was so severe I’m not sure how I drove home. I was singularly obsessed with getting home to where I knew I would find a remedy. I’ll never forget that searing pain shooting into every part of my being.
Another opportunity presented as I stood in “Whole Foods Market” one evening during this time. I became suddenly acutely aware of being surrounded by food that I had the money to buy, but I was denied access because it was all food I couldn’t eat. I knew at that moment what it must be for someone who has no resources to buy food but often is in a situation where they are surrounded by food and denied access.
I made it home from the meeting in part because I knew there was a remedy to my pain awaiting me. I survived that moment in Whole Foods Market and many similar situations over the last four years, in part because I knew that there was a remedy and would have access.
People who suffer from food insecurity don’t have my luxury. They go to bed not knowing if tomorrow that excruciating pain that is keeping them from sleep will be alleviated, even if that respite from hunger is only temporary. They ask themselves if tomorrow will be the day that when they open the kitchen cupboard, they will find the can of baking powder and shaker of salt has magically turned into a large jar of peanut butter and an equally large jar of jelly. You see, for someone who is hungry, it is not unusual to feel as though you are not deserving of more and if you got that vision to come true, well, then, who could want more than that? “Hunger prevents hope”
We’re coming into the “season of giving.” Well, I think every day should be a season of giving as it isn’t so much what has been done and is inadequate but what we can do every day to make a difference. So for those of us who are able and moved to make this difference, I have this thought. There will be many requests for food assistance in the next few months. Each time we are at a store buying food, reach for one item to be ready to donate. When the moment comes to help another person or when we make that moment, we’ll be ready.