This year I want to resolve to help more and worry less.
This is the number one thing I worry about most right now:
Children and hunger.
Right now in the United States approximately 20-30% of children go to bed hungry. Twenty percent or more of the child population in 37 states and D.C. live in what are called “food insecure households.” New Mexico (30.6%) and the District of Columbia (30.0%) have the highest rates where children live without consistent access to food.
How often do we say “I’m starving?” What we mean is we are hungry. It’s true some of us don’t take care of ourselves all that well and maybe we realize—God, it’s dinner time and I didn’t eat all day—I need to resolve to eat better throughout the day. I totally agree with that resolution.
At the same time—we are not starving. I’m going out on a limb here and saying most of you reading this blog are not starving. (However, and this is something I worry about—many of you might be anorexic…and starving, most definitely—which would be another column.)
But… this is about children and hunger. This is how much of the world’s population is starving/ malnourished: 1 in 8 people in the world suffer from chronic undernourishment.
Poverty is the principle cause of hunger. Children who are malnourished lose about 160 days of illness a year. That’s almost five months! How are you going to get an education and go to school if you are missing almost 5 months of it?
Malnutrition also exacerbates diseases—every disease—not just malaria but also diarrhea. And malnourished kids die from diarrhea (61%) at a higher rate than malaria (57%)!
Malnutrition can also stunt your growth. Stunted growth because of malnutrition affects almost one third of children in developing countries.
In many of these cases, this story begins with a malnourished mother. In many developing countries where the mother has not had adequate nutrition…the baby is born with stunted growth and at risk for among other things blindness and premature death.
Here’s what I worry about:
We have enough food to feed everybody. And we aren’t doing it.
The hungry in the world total 870 million people. That number is equivalent to the combined populations of the United States, Canada and the European Union.
Where are the hungry people? Mostly in Asia and Africa: east, central and southern Africa. However, the share of the hungry in urban areas is rising.
No one want to think about images of starving children…especially after Christmas or whatever variant of winter holiday you are celebrating. What we might be worrying about at this time is how much we actually did eat/indulged in over the holidays.
Be that as it may. Children are starving. Children go to bed hungry in every city in the United States every night. So, although this is a time of year when many among us worry about over-indulging in food, it is also the time that a quarter to a third of the population feels want most keenly, to quote a line from A Christmas Carol, when the men come to see Scrooge and try to get him to give to the poor. And he responds, “Are there no workhouses?”
There is a quiz on the Feeding America site to test your knowledge about hunger. You can take it here:
I’ll give you a few of the answers—1 in 6 Americans are hungry. Hunger is in homes where there is at least one working adult (almost 40% of them); and that same percentage is also true for hungry families who have folks in them who have a college education (almost 40%)—but they are still going to bed hungry. Among other things, hunger means that hungry children will not perform as well in school as those who are fed. And also hunger exists just as much in people with homes as in those who are homeless.
In the parable of the loaves and the fishes, Jesus says (John 6:1-14) don’t waste anything. Gather everything up. He feeds 5,000 people with the five barley loaves and two fishes that a small boy in the crowd has. But many folks forget that Jesus did not just perform the miracle that generated enough food for those 5,000 present. He also gathered up all that was left over—twelve baskets worth “so that nothing would be wasted.”
Why do we have enough and we are wasting so much? Why are children going to bed hungry? Why is there a surplus that is not being gathered up and distributed?
I don’t have the answers to really much of this–just my questions and my worries. However, many food kitchens for the homeless and those in need name themselves after this parable. They are not questioning the miracle or pondering the answers. They are practicing faith by works. There is one in San Jose, CA, The Loaves and Fishes Kitchen.
Also, when we talk about those who are hungry, and I have been talking about children here—there is another thing I worry about—the elderly and hunger. In my home state of California—47% of the elderly cannot afford basic needs. That is almost half of the population of the elderly in California!
The Loaves and Fishes Kitchen is the only provider of hot food for low income and homeless people in eastern Santa Clara/ San Jose, CA area. They describe their mission as one of providing some sense of “food security” to needy people /families. Food security—I have never heard of hunger and its abatement as not just as eating but as providing “food security,” before doing some basic research for this blog. I’m sure many of us have heard of the phrase, “worrying where the next meal will come from,” but food security means not just getting the next meal and feeling full. Food security means stopping having to worry about where the next meal will come from.
In Los Angeles where I live according to a recent Los Angeles Times article—there has been no let up in “food insecurity.” In fact, things are getting worse. According to this article, many folks have to decide between eating and paying rent, or eating and getting medicine.
Almost ten percent of Californians are out of work. This means more folks are hungry. Another worry: while this is happening house Republicans want to slash the food stamp budget by another 40 billion over the next decade “to prove fiscal responsibility.” The myth of the American Dream—where if you just work hard enough you will be OK, is what fuels the myth that cutting food programs, public welfare money– helps people “work harder.” When in fact, there are no jobs; people are paid less for working more—and the wealth in the country is owned by the elusive 1%.
There’s a great blog that recently went viral by a woman, Linda Tirado. She talks about the decisions that poor people make because they are the best decisions they can make then. I understand a lot of them because I was brought up lower middle class. If you looked away from your hamburger in my house one of the many siblings might snatch it off your plate. We did not have excess protein. However, I was not starving. I ate. Did we always eat healthy? No. But we ate.
Ms. Tirado’s piece helps us understand why slashing the budget that provides some relief to those on subsistence incomes, many living in motels with no stove, and working two jobs already…is not going to help those folks buck up and work harder. The poor are already some of the hardest working Americans there are, and some of the hardest working citizens of the world in any country.
Although there are many other things I worry about, such as:
–the torture of animals and that I still eat meat.
–The torture of dairy farm animals and that I still eat cheese and drink milk and have a daily cappuccino.
–I worry about the pollution of the ocean and that we, humans, represent such a small part of Earth—we are less than 29% of earth and the ocean in 71% of it and we’re screwing up the ocean. It is a variant of the 1% amassing the resources and hurting the 99% on a horrifically magnified scale.
–I worry about child abuse. Four children die every day as a result of child abuse.
Yes, there are many other things I worry about. I could go on here and talk about all the things I worry about. Sometimes I lie in bed and I can’t help thinking—somewhere a child is being hurt, or starving, a woman is being beaten. This might be happening somewhere close to me…maybe within walking distance. Somewhere in the great cities I have lived in…somewhere someone is almost always being hurt…and it is often a child.
I’m not sure if other folks worry like this. I know I do. And through the course of my life I have done work in various communities—social justice work that hopes to address and change these worries.
I could add to this list of current worries.
But, as I said right now I am very concerned with children and hunger—20 to 30% of American children going to bed hungry. And that is not even addressing the majority of the hungry in the world which do not even live in the U.S.
Children are dying, and their growth being stunted. Perhaps also on a small side note, because I am a teacher I am really concerned about the absolute unfairness of going to school with others who are well-fed when you are not and having to compete for the same grades. It worries me. As a professor who just finished grading over 200 finals—if I knew that some of these students were finishing their final work without enough food to fuel them, would I grade grade them differently? Should I? And maybe more importantly—should I know that they are hungry? Doesn’t it seem grossly unfair to apply the same grade to those who are hungry as to those who are well fed?
This blog does not mean that I could not list so many things I am also truly grateful for. I am—truly grateful. I had a book published this year. My wife and I performed an amazing balancing act of loans in order to purchase our first home. I am so grateful for this forum, this feminism and religion blog and the women who maintain it.
Yes, there are wonderful things in the world. Yes, it is a wonderful life. Or it can be. But, just as in the movie a wonderful life does not happen when people are hungry, when others want more than their share. What is our fair share? And how is it corporations become more important than the people who make them up? This is so much “food” for thought.
But, today I am writing about actual food. Not food for thought. I am thinking about resolutions, and I wanted to share mine. Children and hunger. I can’t resolve to stop worrying, but I can resolve to give money to the local mission (for me that is most likely to Catholic Charities or the Long Beach Mission, which I give to occasionally/regularly—but which I want to give to just regularly and on a schedule. There is also a food pantry at St. Luke’s in Long Beach that I will donate to with either time or money or both.)
I don’t know how much I’ll give—if it will be every month, four times a year or something else; if I will go work at the food bank or not. I want to do all of those things and I am realistic to admit I may not do them all but I will do something, in terms of a workable resolution by the first of the year.
I resolve to stop worrying about children and hunger so much. It doesn’t put food in a child’s belly—my worry. Faith by works.
I resolve to pick up the loaves and fishes of my life and work whatever miracle I can with them.
And you…what are your resolutions/ revolutions?
Marie Cartier is a teacher, poet, writer, healer, artist, and scholar. She holds a BA in Communications from the University of New Hampshire; an MA in English/Poetry from Colorado State University; an MFA in Theatre Arts (Playwriting) from UCLA; an MFA in Film and TV (Screenwriting) from UCLA; and an MFA in Visual Art (Painting/Sculpture) from Claremont Graduate University. She is also a first degree black belt in karate, Shorin-Ryu Shi-Do-Kan Kobayashi style. Ms. Cartier has a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University.