Community: Food and Social Justice

July 13th

{Part of an on-going series on Community. Read more here.}

Chocolate baking scones

Community is a buzz word. Get a liberal in the White House and everyone starts talking about how “it takes a village.” I know, I know. You’ll be shocked to hear my all-loving liberal heart agrees.

Have you spent time with a child lately? Like a really little, totally needy child? A village doesn’t adequately describe the help needed to keep our young alive. Think of the farmer who grows the veggies, or the checker who rings up those veggies, or the pediatrician who makes sure that child doesn’t die of some weird carrot flu. Now, get more practical: the nurse who helped deliver the kid. The community health worker who put together the lactation campaign that taught the mom how to breast feed. The $8 an hour child care worker who eventually will watch the kid take his first step and nurture him to keep going when the second step lands him flat on his butt. “It takes a village” isn’t liberal commie code for “We are socialists! We should raise our babies together in yurts!” It means community is important to our fundamental well-being.

I’d say it takes a village to create a well-rounded adult, not just a child. (An example otherwise.)

Ginger cake

Community for me often involves food. Perhaps it is my United Methodist roots — those which run deep in casserole-to-celebrate-everything-soil — or that I’ve been able to travel just enough to be truly bothered by hunger. For me, being in community with someone often includes breaking of bread.

Or baking of ginger cakes and orange chocolate scones. Or hosting a community dinner. Or swapping recipes with your neighbor over the back fence. It seems no two people have the exact same view on faith, life, money, sex or politics. But food? We all love food. Perhaps not the same foods — but we can agree that eating a couple times of day? Well, it’s a nice thing to do.

Ginger cake

I listened to this podcast this weekend, as I do most weekends, walking around a lake with Nelson. I wasn’t just shocked by the story of children living in poverty in America. I was hurt. I am hurt. All the patriotic baloney I’ve swallowed over the years sat in the back of my throat as I listened to kids talk about how living in a sketchy motel is “better than the car. Anything is better than living in the car.”

Kids living in cars? I’m not so far removed from the daily grind to think this isn’t happening in America. But 25% of kids are living in poverty? One fourth of our children must miss at least one meal a day because of scarcity?

Aren’t we the nation of Neil Armstrong and Lance Armstrong? We put men on the moon. We cure cancer. We can’t feed our own people? What is going on here, America?

I don’t have any answers. But! I do have a couple of ideas and boundless optimism. To create community is to share with each other. It’s to give, sometimes until it hurts, and to be willing to listen to the same degree. It’s to gather up those around you — in your neighborhood, or say, on your blog — and suggest we have some serious sharing, listening and learning to do. Our country is fractured. We have the choice to sit around and complain about the current state of affairs, or pour our hearts into something that could wrap that break and help it heal to become even stronger.

Chocolate orange scones

Nutrition, hunger and community health are my public health passions. Putting these to work in my new community will involve:

  • finding a food bank where I can volunteer
  • understanding the local gleaning system and see how I can get involved
  • talking about hunger with my friends and family
  • and perhaps more practically, creating a bag of snacks I can give to the growing number of unemployed I see on our city corners

This is what you can do:

  • Define community. What does this word mean to you?
  • Where do you see hunger in your community?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • Listen to this podcast

The greatest social movements start with a few boneheaded, optimistic loud mouths willing to give and listen until it hurts. I don’t want to live in a country where so many of our children are hungry from lack of adequate community building. (Because let’s face it, this isn’t about a shortage of food in America. It’s about power.) Wielding my tiny power and my loud mouth — I’m in. Are you?


Posted in
Colorado, Community, Public Health
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9 Responses

  1. You are just fantastic and such a light! Great ideas. I just took over the Media/Marketing position of an organization on our base here in Belgium called Share-A-Meal. We rally the troops (so to speak) from all 28 NATO countries stationed here to “sponsor” needy families. We give them a list, a box and ask them to fill it and return it to us. The 150 boxes are delivered to local Belgian charities just before Christmas. I’m super excited about it and love to hear about other people helping their communities. Keep up the good work Kelli!

  2. Sharon July 13, 2011

    You are definitely an inspiration to me! I contribute to the local Food Bank and also make sure I put on my shopping list food to bring to church for their food bank. My town has a large population of day laborers who work very hard to keep our lawns/properties looking so nice…maybe my small contribution helps feed their families.

  3. Every start is a good start when helping people is involved! I’m sure more will follow.

  4. Love that you are tackling this issue – I agree, it’s appalling that we’ll pay movie stars billions of dollars in support of their movies for our entertainment but yet 25% of our children live in poverty. Something is seriously broken…and it’s not just our society that’s broken, it is the PEOPLE of our society. When we stop buying $9 movie tickets and instead take that $9 and two hours of our time and invest it in meaningful change, then I think we’ll be in a better place.

  5. *Note: I’m not just hating on movies and movie stars, that just happened to be the first example of excess (among many) that is so unnecessary.

  6. *Note: I’m not just hating on movies and movie stars, that just happened to be the first example of excess (among many) that is so unnecessary that I thought of!

  7. Kelli,

    Well said! Thank you for shedding light on this. And thank you Bianca for noting the unnecessary excesses in our society. Such waste. I shared the link to the article on my FB page. Wake up America!

  8. Such a great post! It really is astonishing what goes on in this country. I grew up in poverty, sometimes going without food & electricity, relying on food banks, and you never forget those experiences. It’s so important not to turn a blind eye! Our parish supports a local shelter that provides meals for anyone in need 365 days a year and as a family we make sandwiches and cookies once or twice a month to donate to them. It’s an easy way to teach our children to look out for others, even just as simple as feeding them.

  9. Alaina July 17, 2011

    This is well written, powerful and motivating. I agree with your point of view and I commend you for sharing actions we can all take.