The Hunger issue

Help feed your neighbors

By William S. Coleman III

The words “Hunger in America” can attract the eye of any reader; could Worcester have a hunger crisis? There are many families in Worcester who do not have the basic food essentials in their house. Times are tough, and many folks are just getting by. If you can open your refrigerator and see the abundance of food, you are lucky.

Hunger in Worcester means more than just a few soup kitchens and food pantries providing bags of good quality food to single people and families in need. Hunger means that one has to hold back the pain, hurt or embarrassment of asking for food from a pantry or distant family member or friend.

Each night in Worcester someone goes to bed hungry. Be it the elderly living alone and depressed or a child who is hungry in a house with no food. There is a hunger crisis before our eyes in our community.

We can do many things to end hunger in our community. We must feed the body and then feed the mind. When someone in need of food (to feed his or her family) approaches you what do you say or what do you do? Don’t be surprise when it happens. The people who volunteer to hand out the bags of food see new faces every day. Nothing to be embarrassed about – this is a moment in time. Things will get better.

My concerns are about getting helpful information out to as many people as we can. We need to reach out to someone in need or be a resource for someone asking how to help a friend. Food is abundant in America. We know how wasteful we can be.

It may be hard for people to think we have a food crisis in our community. Just look around. You can buy food for 99 cents. Did you know that you could feed a family of four for one day for fewer than seven dollars, and that is providing a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner and two healthy snacks? This is true. Many of my students have proven this test in their own homes.

What are the staples you keep in your home? For many families it was always milk, bread, cheese, peanut butter, eggs and flour.What would the average person do with a pound of flower today? We live in a microwave society where our food is made in a factory, with too much salt, fat, and sugar.

How many times have you sat at the dinner table and had dinner as a family?

Ask the people you know who have a family. You will be surprised to find out how we live today. I remember the smell of my Mother’s home backed beans. She would first soak them over night and then add molasses and onions, cooking them slowly. The smell would fill the house and trail down our street. Who today passes down those family recipes to the next generation?

We must become vigilant in our efforts to end homeless and hunger in our society. Worcester like many communities, is confronting the crisis of people losing their homes. Families in crisis and children suffering. I ask why?

There is a new homeless – families moving in with families and sharing tight spaces. This puts a strain on family relationships when the intention was to help. You will read from time to time of a family living in a car or school bus or in a hall way. Every word of these stories is true. In our community we have despair, depression, and hope for many families in crisis.

The issue of hunger is central to the quality of life in our city. I believe that all monies should be taken out of the school cafeteria. I have witnessed young people who did not have the $1.25 or $2.00 lunch fee. Many students would just talk through lunch and go to class hungry. These students do not qualify for free or reduced lunch. Then there are the students who would forget their lunch pass and not have the dollar to get a new one.

Students who do not eat breakfast or lunch cannot learn. Many are disruptive in class. I say take the money out of the cafeteria and let every student eat breakfast lunch and have a healthly snack. Let’s make our schools true learning centers and safe places for all children. A well-fed child is a happy child.

Some people will ask, “Who will pay for it? “We already do. Just ask how much it costs not to feed a child.What would it cost to cut our drop out rate in half or to reduce youth crime. The brain requires a lot of energy to work. I support finding ways to get young people to come to school and keep them there until graduation.

We must help our families in crisis. Call on the older members in our community and buy them lunch or dinner or take them out for breakfast. If you can help a food pantry in your community with quality food that can be given to a family in need do it.

As a Nutrition Educator for the University of Massachusetts Extension, I am often asked to share some basic guidelines for healthy and wise food shopping my students in the Citizen School after school program at the University Park School helped me with this list:

(Before you go to shopping) Get some rest, Look to see what you have on hand, Make a list of what you need, Eat something, (Never go shopping hungry) Go to the bathroom, Wash your hands, Make a budget of money you will spend and stay with it. –Thank you Citizen School Students for your help.

Hunger affects the quality of life of all our citizens.

If you can help someone in need, do it. What goes around comes back tenfold.