Without boring you with too many statistics, I think it is helpful for me to provide some numbers to prove a point.
The latest estimates from the Department of Agriculture are that 48.8 million people in America live in food-insecure households, half of them children; 46 million participate in the Food Stamp Program; and about one in four Americans participate in at least one of the domestic food and nutrition assistance programs run by the USDA.
Before we jump to the conclusion of making this a political issue, or moral issue, the fact is that hunger and poverty is a reality for many Americans; right here in our back yard.
As a pastor of a congregation in south Cumberland and the chairman of the Interfaith Community Food Pantry on Cumberland Street in Cumberland, I don’t have to go very far to see people who do not have enough food, and regardless of the claim of America being the richest and most powerful nation in the world; there are people who do not have enough to eat!
And even worse, there are millions of children, through no fault of their own, who do not have enough to eat, who may not have breakfast every day, who may not have a hot meal before going to bed at night.
We can respond to these facts in a variety of ways. We can say that people need to pull themselves up by their boot straps. We can say that it’s not my problem. We can play the political game of saying that it is not the government’s problem.
We can just ignore it, or we can choose to engage either out of religious reasons, or simply out of care for other human beings. I think many choose to ignore the problem, mostly because it is too painful, or too uncomfortable to talk about, or because we don’t quite know what to do with it.
Any action is better than no action at all, and frankly, hunger is an issue that can be resolved. There are enough resources. There is enough food. When it comes down to it, it has to do with priorities.
Do we feed our hungry children, or do we spend the money on something else? Do we require companies to pay a living wage, so more people can have higher quality of life, or is corporate profit in the end the only thing that matters?
Do we put the load on soup kitchens, food pantries and faith communities, or are we going to move towards a more sustainable solution where all humans are valued and appreciated?
I don’t care what might motivate you to act upon this, as long as something does. As for me and the congregation of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Cumberland it is much about responding to Jesus call to love our neighbors.
One of the ways we try to do that is by serving a hot meal to people in the community every first and third Sunday, from 1 to 3 p.m.. No questions asked. This is but a band-aid on the real problem, but it is something.
I urge you to engage in the fight against hunger. If you are part of a faith community that does not currently have a hunger program, think about starting one, or we would be happy to have you be part of ours.
Donate to a food bank if you can. Most importantly, speak up about hunger. Contact local and state elected officials to let them know how you feel about this. No person should have to go hungry, especially no child.
Pastor Tormod Svensson
St. John’s Lutheran Church