Food for Thought

I’ve made time to blog the past few days, and it’s a very good feeling to be keeping up the trend. And I know, I know…the title is rather cliché given the topic, but I think it’ll still be worth your while. Here are my latest thoughts:

This morning I had a couple pieces of bran bread on my way to campus, and they were good. I quickly felt like I had increased energy and a lighter step, which was great, since I had a test, which I think went well. That feeling lasted the rest of the day, when I didn’t have food, which was also nice. I will mention as a side note that I don’t remember the last time I’ve been offered so much food, and been invited to lunch, AND had all kinds of potential lunch/dinner events come up all at once in a week!

My dad sweetly brought home heart-shaped boxes of Russell Stover’s chocolate for each of us today, and I was immediately torn. This was something I hadn’t planned for when I set up my tentative parameters for my fast. Should I give it away? Save it for later? Enjoy it now? I settled on saving it in this case, but the other day I gave a fruit bar that would have otherwise been allotted to me to a sib, and this evening I decided to treat my sisters to Sonic. In undertaking a hunger fast, why not think a little less about what we’re missing out on and instead focus on how we can use food to the benefit of others?

At Sonic, however, I caught the smell of delicious onion rings. And earlier in the day, after picking me up from college, my family had stopped at McDonald’s for a quick bite, and there too their food smelled SO good. The feeling reminded me of the power of our sense of smell to tantatalize us and in some cases even satiate. I’ve always been amused at how if ever my mom is avoiding a particular food, she’ll ask to smell it, and be quite content with just that.

And this led me to yet another train of thought. Why, when we’re on a fast, do we sometimes feel guilty about being around food? Maybe this hasn’t happened for you, but I know working in the hunger arena, there’s a part of me that always feels a bit hypocritical if I go out to eat after a packaging event, like perhaps I’m “undoing” a bit of the good that was just done, or like maybe if I really cared about hunger, I wouldn’t be eating at a nice restaurant since others can’t.

But to take that thought a bit further, I want to suggest that we analyze our perceptions of hunger and starvation as a whole. For me at least, it’s often easy to think of starvation as happening “over there”…(waving vaguely towards some far-off country)…and to some degree hunger happening here…but not a close here. Not my sibling or my neighbor or my classmate. Some here as in…the United States…this big, nebulous, faceless, vague concept of…a problem. That’s precisely why some organizations show videos and pictures of starving children – to give us a face to the problem and motivate action. But often instead only compassion or pity or horror are aroused instead.

We have to remember the power of one…and not in vague hypotheticals, but in tangible, practical actions. I truly believe that most of us, presented with an honest need, would be willing to take a hungry or impoverished person to lunch with us, given the opportunity. But the problem of hunger usually seems so insolvable that we’re left feeling we’ve made a small dent (which we have) in a vast problem (which it is).

But our collective efforts are what make the difference, because as was reaffirmed over and over again at the Kansas Hunger Dialogue, the problem of hunger is solvable. Because those collective efforts are made up of individuals taking small actions that matter. Like packaging food. Volunteering at a food bank. Researching the problem, or even maybe not eating.

As they say, I think moderation is important in all things. Eating out after a long tiring day of managing volunteers and packaging food makes a lot of sense. And there are a number of other good reasons to enjoy good food without guilt, be it for a birthday celebration, a time of conversation and catching up with a friend, or even sometimes “just because.” Food service providers are just another business in one sense, something that helps drive the economy, and many have taken positive actions to address hunger in their own communities and abroad.

I think the challenge is in finding that balance where there’s no sense of incongruity, because you enjoy food and want others to be able to enjoy it with you and are working towards that end. The point is not to subject ourselves to gruel for the rest of our lives in a symbolic expression of identification with the hungry…it’s to take action so that after being given gruel or nourishing casserole that their bodies can handle, along with the resources and tools to rise above their current circumstances, they too can have the joy of tasting a chicken alfredo pasta dish or authentic Mexican or Chinese food or a Greek Salad.

Read the rest of the posts in this series:


This entry was posted on Friday, April 1st, 2011 at 1:59 am and is filed under Important Causes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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