Saturday, February 09, 2008

A sobering observation

In the past month and a half, since my last trip to the neighborhood food pantry, I have collected a large, heavy bag filled with canned veggies and soups, pasta and baby food. Every time I go to the grocery, convenience or drug store, I pick up something on sale for $1 or less to add to the bag. It makes me happy to hunt down the best possible bargain each trip. (Like the can of beets I picked up yesterday for just 55¢.)

I carried it all over to the food pantry, which is open every Saturday from 9 till noon. I was pleased by the amount and selection of food I was donating.

As I got closer to the food pantry, I began passing people who were leaving with their bags of food. These folks live here in town and belong to one of our participating neighborhood churches; their ministers puts their names on the list. Then, every week they get a bag of food. (It's done this way so as not to interfere with any other aid they may be getting. And to help people who are suffering but don't meet the requirements for aid.)

At that moment I realized that the food I was dropping off -- the bag it took me 7 weeks to fill -- is equal to what each of these citizens carries out every week. And I'd been proud of my contribution! It's really just a drop in the bucket.

My village is pretty representative of suburban America, I think. We're racially mixed (68% white, 22% black, 10% "other"). 42% of the children under 18 are growing up in 2-parent households. The average HHI is just over $59,000. Yet the line at the food pantry is always long, with people willing to wait in line for a bag of free groceries. My neighbors are having trouble making ends meet.