Barren Tables, Empty Stomachs

As we sit down with our family and friends at the Thanksgiving table, we often forget about the thousands of people in America, Canada and around the world who do not share our prosperity.

One in two. One in five. While at first glance this might seem to be the touchdown-to-interception ratio the Miami Dolphins are likely to set in their Thanksgiving afternoon game against the Dallas Cowboys, it represents something far more serious and disturbing then ineptitude on the football field.

I recently finished the Food Stamp Challenge, a national effort to better understand the hardships that many Americans are faced with on a daily basis. The Challenge is simple: live for one week off of the average weekly food stamp allotment, $31.50. That comes to just $1.50 per meal. By way of comparison, consider that a packet of instant noodles costs $1.

Imagine if this went on and on and was not an expression of solidarity. For millions of Americans, that is the case. In 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 48 million Americans were hungry. Imagine what this does to children. One in two children, according to the Center for American Progress, will need food stamps (in the form of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) at some point before their 18th birthday. One in five American children is hungry.

One in two. One in five.

These are not the kinds of numbers we think of. This is America, we say. Sitting around our Thanksgiving tables, filled with warmth, friends, and family, our plates piled high with food. This is America, where no one goes hungry!

One in two. One in five.

Where is our national sense of compassion? Where are our leaders? For rather than embarking on a crusade against the raw evil of hunger, Congress debates cutting anti-hunger programs. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction may have failed to agree on a set of cuts before today’s deadline, but deficit reduction will continue to figure prominently in the coming months, which means anti-hunger programs will continue to be at risk. In this holiday season, many will give to food banks or shelters, but come January, our charity will likely diminish as the holiday spirit fades.

On Thanksgiving, we must give thanks for more than the food upon our tables, and the warmth of our homes. We must give thanks that we have the power to bring about great change. We can demand of our leaders that we lift up the hungry in society- and reignite the hopes and dreams of millions, across America and across the world. We can make one in two the number of children who dream of being astronauts, and one in five the number who want to be teachers. We can make rampant hunger a specter of a distant past.

Let us give thanks. Let us end hunger.

Photo courtesy of the RAC website.

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Ian Hainline

About Ian Hainline

Ian Hainline is a 2011-2012 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. He is from Chapel Hill, NC, and is a member of Judea Reform Congregation.

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