Carla Meisterman posted an update: 1 year, 6 months ago
Our City…Hungry for Understanding
When you start with the fact that in order to be provided breakfast, lunch and dinner at school, your parent(s) cannot make any more than $22,350 for a family of four – and then you realize that Memphis was designated the city with the highest hunger statistics in the nation in 2010 – it is hard for me to think that anyone would have a problem with the government trying to assist people in feeding children who are living in poverty.
It is way too easy to sit back and judge people who receive assistance when you can afford to buy every single meal you put in your mouth. Until you have tried to feed a family of four on $22,350 a year, I believe you should not be allowed to give an opinion on this matter. When I was a camp counselor in West Virginia in the early 1970’s, our Native American Camp Director taught us that we could not make assumptions about anyone until we had walked a mile in their moccasins.
Two years ago during Lent, our church studied Just Eating: Practicing Our Faith at the Table. Wendi Thomas, from the Commercial Appeal, came to tell us about when she and her brother tried to live on what a family would receive from welfare in a week. She introduced us to the fact that there were food deserts where people don’t have access to grocery stores in many parts of our city. She explained that people living below the poverty line can’t shop on certain aisles in the grocery store because they simply can’t afford to buy from the aisles that offer what is actually healthy to eat.
People like me – people who have a car and can drive anywhere I want to go… people like me -who can choose whether I buy free range or gluten free or organic… people like me have no earthly idea what it means to have to take a bus or walk to a grocery store where I can only afford what people like me would call junk food.
One of the biggest problems we have in this city – next to having so many poor and hungry children – is that we, who have the ability to feed ourselves, need to be educated on what it means to try to feed a family of four on $22,325 a year. The Jewish Federation, Balmoral Presbyterian Church, MIFA, Seedco, The Food Bank and Rhodes professor, Kendra Hotz, are working together to bring the issues of hunger in our city to the forefront in 2012. We are looking for partners in the effort to develop broad based understanding and commitment to do what it takes to remove Memphis from our number one position in the top ten list of hungriest cities in our nation.
We believe that the first step to combating hunger in Memphis is educating people. Memphians need to understand that people do not have access to grocery stores in some areas of our city. Memphians need to know how many hungry people there actually are within walking distance from their own front door. There are children living in households where they are not receiving proper nutrition. There are people in our city who are suffering from ‘food insecurity’ – people who are simply are not sure where their next meal is coming from.
People suffering with ‘food insecurity’ are not just in the disadvantaged neighborhoods. Some may be living in houses they are desperately trying to keep from going into foreclosure – in neighborhoods that are characterized as middle to upper middle class. To try to over-simplify the problem of hunger by making judgmental statements about parenting skills of someone making less than $22,325 annually – when they have four mouths to feed – is abhorrent to me.
David Waters offered the panel an opportunity to respond to a comment made by Rush Limbaugh as we responded this week. Waters said when Rush Limbaugh looks at the government trying to make sure kids are getting three square meals a day he asks, “Where are the parents”?. I would say, “Rush when is the last time you parked your luxury vehicle and had to ride a bus to find a grocery store? When is the last time you took your calculator and tried to stretch $1860 a month across rent, utilities, clothes, household items and products, phone service, school supplies transportation and food for four people? When is the last time you stopped to think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? And Rush, what do you think it means for our country when we are only truly as strong as our weakest link?