Monday, April 11, 2011

Empty Space: Hunger Fast

There's going to be a brief pause in four foodie's lives today. We're putting down the bowl/tortilla/meat/sugar spoon. As former fellows with the Congressional Hunger Center we join Ambassador Tony Hall's HungerFast which calls attention to vulnerable people in our communities and the impact that federal cuts could have on their lives.

The four fasters all love food differently. The range extends from revering funky shaped vegetables grown in native climates to plates carefully stacked with tastes so stunning the server reminds patrons to breathe. Appreciation for real food, food grown to heal the earth, meals shared and celebrated runs deep among us. We consume food, but food also consumes much of our mental, emotional and political lives. Such are our food-lover merits. And so as advocates for social change through a food revolution we want fellow eaters to digest these (not really crazy) radical thoughts:

--Hunger/poor nutrition is a matter of unequal economic distribution, not a lack of production
--Programs that provide food to hungry families should be considered a temporary solution; work that pays everyone enough to eat well is the end to hunger
--Those who earn less should have equal access to choosing nutritious and consciously grown food
--Collectively we have the ability to raise the bar. For our communities to be abundant, the vulnerable deserve more than just unhealthy leftovers and grocery store overstock. They too deserve to thrive.
--In solidarity, we remember today that hunger and poor nutrition impact everything we do, not just our stomach pains: ability to focus in school, stress, attitude, engagement in the community and many other basic functions.
--We are hopeful because this is solvable. Unlike other national and international problems, we have the resources right now to ensure that every person has enough food to eat. It's a matter of where we choose to place it in our national priorities.
--Perhaps we can begin where most, if not all, Americans agree with heart and mind: no child, anywhere in the world, should suffer from a lack of adequate, nutritious food. Let that principle, recognized in religions and moral codes across the world, guide our initial conversations.

Much of America's conception of what food means to someone who is hungry comes packaged in national food drives, local food pantries and donated meals at church halls. Non-profits and religious institutions should be commended for ensuring that when someone is hungry in this country there is an offering of something to eat. Let's assume however that if you are reading this blog then you are an eater who cherishes the opportunity to choose what to eat (and not to eat) and too, enjoys the act of being a subversive/careful eater. This is the essential distinction between the emergency food system and many of the federal programs which provide families the ability to make that essential decision: what to put on their tables. Charity has it's place in meeting immediate food shortages. Acts of justice that change the system where farmworkers can't afford the organic produce they pick is where we need to be. We need to be at a farmer's market where low-income families are provided financial assistance to put crooked-neck squash and viking potatoes in their bags. We need to be at grocery stores where a mother with WIC benefits isn't pushed into the processed food aisle because sugar cereal is cheaper than keifer. We need to be at restaurants that buy the majority of their produce from small farms where labor is paid a living wage and profits stay among those who work the land.

It is not remarkable to forgo three meals.
But the empty space today hopefully will be filled with thought provoking meals beyond our fast.
So that when we eat again we are reminded of how great an act it is to consume food.
It is remarkable that when good food divides us, it can bring us back together again.