A couple of days ago Gerrit and I had the opportunity to go see the documentary A Place at the Table at a local church and hear from some people who are fighting hunger in our local area. To be honest, part of me did not want to go at all. It was cold. To the bone cold. And I had spent the afternoon curled up in a blanket on the couch and had absolutely no desire to change clothes and go out into the cold again. But I did and I’m glad and everything about the evening was so interesting.
The movie is about hunger in America, and how pervasive of a problem it is and how food stamps aren’t enough and how poverty is linked to obesity and how generally the agribusinesses who grow the products that go in junk food get all the money (and subsidies) while the smaller farmers growing fruits and vegetables struggle. It’s all things I know and have heard, but the documentary tied it all together. And then we listened to people who run the food bank and community gardens and who glean fields, which pulled all together for me even more on the local level. And while the documentary and the people speaking talked so much about what can be done on a national level (as in, the legislation that needs to be supported), what it really made me think of are the things that can be done on an individual level, the things that I need to do more of.
1. Contributing more to local food pantries. Every month our church collects items to send to a church down the road that has a food pantry. And since I also work at my church, I also occasionally come into contact with people who show up looking for food, and we often direct them to that food pantry (along with a couple of others in the area). And yet over the past couple of weeks I’ve begun realizing how very little I do to support it. Every week when I go to the grocery store, I’ve started looking for a couple of items to buy to contribute–canned vegetables, peanut butter, pasta, toiletries. By the end of the month I have a whole bag to add to the collection basket. If everyone did that, it would add up. Fast.
2. Buy local produce. It’s such a trendy thing to go to the farmer’s market. And I know it helps small businesses/farms and I know it is often more healthy, but I understand in a new way why it is so important to buy from your local farmers. Small local farms aren’t getting the subsidies that the agribusinesses do. The food bank representative told us after the movie showing that they used to receive baskets and baskets of produce from local farmers, extra fruits and vegetables to be given out. But now so many of those local farmers have gone under, taking away that source the food bank once had for fresh produce. So while shopping at local farmer’s markets is healthy for both you and the local economy, it also is hopefully impacting the way a community can fight hunger.
What other steps do you think are important in combating hunger on an individual level? Also–UK friends (and other friends from around the world)–I’m interesting to know how similar or different the hunger situation is in your areas. What kinds of conversations do you hear?