Hunger – update.

It turns out that September is Hunger Awareness Month! I had no idea that this was the case when I wrote yesterday’s post in a froth of anger, on August 31, but every once and awhile, my anger and the cultural zeitgeist are in the same place.

The Feeding America site has a page that lays out how little it can actually cost to provide meals — one latte, by their figuring, equals nine meals. (If you doubt the math here, check this out: An illustrated comparison of what $4.86 would buy you at a grocery store, vs. what a local food pantry could buy with the same $4.86 at the Greater Chicago Food Depository).

The Cheesecake Factory (and, of all people, David Arquette!) is partnering with Feeding America this month on a hunger awareness campaign — among other things, if you bring in two cans of soup, they’ll donate 10% of your check to a local food pantry. I like the way that this program speaks directly to our shared responsibility. (On a side note, it seems that Arquette is pretty dedicated to this issue — in his own goofy way! Good on ya, David!)

A final note: You may have noticed that I’ve categorized these posts as “Domestic Politics” — because that’s what hunger is.

While it’s true, as a great Jewish rabbi once said, that “the poor you shall always have with you” (Matthew 26:11), it is also true that many among the poor and hungry need not be either. The politics in which we engage creates the circumstances in which some people are locked in a cycle of poverty, a cycle that frequently leaves them without access to food. As Ta-Nehisi Coates once wrote (about men and how it can be sometimes be difficult for men to understand the struggles women face), the problem in dealing with injustice is often not a problem of empathy — it’s a problem of imagination. We need to be able to imagine the extent of the suffering, feel it on our own flesh — not just feel bad when we notice it. And as author Kim McLarin once wrote (about white folks of good will thinking that racism has been defeated because they are personally nice to people of color), we need “a sociological imagination — the ability to link individual experience with greater societal patterns and with the course of history.”

Many of the poor and hungry in this country — especially the working poor — are poor and hungry because we have made political decisions that perpetuate their poverty and their hunger. The responsibility we have to address poverty and hunger is a shared one, and it is political.

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3 Comments

  1. Until our farm policy is changed we will not make a dent in hunger and nutrition. When its cheaper to eat processed, pre-packaged foods than it is to eat fresh produce, the system is broken. The federal farm subsidy program props up large corporate food processing operations by subsidizing large scale mono-culture farming. It has outlived its usefulness and needs a major overhaul.

  2. David Graeber wrote about ‘imaginative identification’ (http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/LSEPublicLecturesAndEvents/pdf/20060525-Graeber.pdf ; cf p. 8) as an ability of subordinates in relations of domination to understand their superiors in a way those superiors are unlikely ever to understand them.

    Translated from academic speak: those at the bottom have to look up. and thus see; those on top don’t have to look down, and thus don’t see.

  3. Whoops, don’t know how that emoticon got in there—perhaps the html for that symbol is 8)
    Anyway, cf. page 8.

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