Clichés become clichés because they’re usually true.
For instance, the adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is more often true than not, especially if the writing is bad. It is certainly accurate in the case of the photograph taken by Record Assistant Editor Marnie McAllister and published on the front page of last week’s edition of the paper.
It showed Ed Wnorowski, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, staring somewhat forlornly at the almost empty shelves of the charity’s food bank.
The previous week, the St. Vincent de Paul Society took to social media — Facebook and Twitter — to announce that it was facing an “urgent need” for food supplies. The charity, McAllister reported, announced that its food bank shelves were “looking bare” and were almost completely devoid of vegetables.
McAllister noted that most of us, when we think of food drives and helping the hungry, usually entertain those notions during the cooler months — or especially at the holiday season. But Wnorowski and Dare to Care Food Bank’s Stan Siegwald both noted that the requests for food assistance actually increase in the summertime.
Jefferson County has some 50,000 children who rely on free or reduced-cost lunches, McAllister reported. And when the school year ends, those children are suddenly facing a day that often doesn’t include a meal in the middle of the day. Siegwald did the math and noted that for those 50,000 children, summer vacation this year will mean they miss a total of about 225,000 meals.
And that’s just in Jefferson County.
When you consider recently compiled numbers from throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the issue of hunger becomes even more staggering — even more depressing.
The Kentucky Association of Food Banks reported last month that about three quarters of a million people in the state are “food insecure.” That means they often don’t know when they might sit down to their next meal. According to the association’s report, 17.3 percent of the state’s population faces hunger on an almost daily basis.
Strange, isn’t it, that in the middle of what the Associated Press last week called our nation’s “obesity epidemic,” that we’re talking about people going hungry? There are questions of nutrition science and eating habits, issues of food availability, that complicate the issue and won’t be discussed here.
What we do need to consider, directly and clearly, is the notion of children in our community — outside our office widows or on the streets we drive through every day — going without something as basic to their well-being as a meal.
In this nation of almost unimaginable wealth, it should be unthinkable that some children are going hungry, or that once school is out, soon will be. It ought to be an issue over which there is no disagreement, no political divide, no ideological debate. In the United States of 2012, children should not be allowed to go hungry.
It is an issue addressed indirectly last week by the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., sent a letter to members of the U.S. House of Representatives in which he noted that proposed funding cuts in programs for the nation’s poor and vulnerable “fail a basic moral test.”
“The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first,” his letter said. “Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times.”
Pope Benedict XVI also addressed the issue of economic inequality in a recent address to new diplomats at the Vatican.
When poverty and extreme wealth exist side-by-side in society, the pope said, it gives rise to a sense of injustice. “The quality of human relationships and the sharing of resources are the foundation of society, allowing everyone to have a role and to live in dignity in accordance with their aspirations,” he said.
Laws and government, the pope added, should not make economic inequality worse. And Bishop Blaire said pretty much the same thing.
“The (federal) budget starts with the proposition that first, Congress must do no harm,” his letter said.
Those of us who are everyday people living everyday lives might not be able to affect the federal budget process very often. But we can write letters to our representatives. And more directly, we can donate food to our local charities — to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, to Dare to Care, to Catholic Charities and to any other agency that can help feed those in need.
Children shouldn’t go hungry.