April 18, 2012

Fresh. Daily.

Based on my blog title if the next word is not Bread, then something else of sustenance.

I've been thinking about hunger/nutrition/food a lot lately. I've heard a lot of noise about cutting the SNAP program. SNAP is an acronym for Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program. Most of us know SNAP as Food Stamps.

It really bothers me when folks are indignant about feeding each other. A friend of mine once said "food should be like air, it should just be something that is there".

I couldn't agree more with that sentiment. As a nation, we have crossed the place of everyone for themselves. That ship sailed. It's not a world of foraging, hunting or gathering. From an anthropological standpoint, we simply are no longer there. Society has changed the way we organize our days.

Our world is a place of localized gathering. We go to stores in an orderly fashion with a list and agenda. We are no longer the wild creatures seeking food, but rather the food is brought to us in exchange not for brawn or strength, but for paper symbols of currency. For most of us, that is.

While Darwin may have suggested survival of the fittest, often times, our less fit are children. Writing experts tell us frequently to write what we know. I cannot purport to know hunger. I can purport to know and have lived with charity.

When I was 12, my parents separated. For the next several years, while they tried to untangle two lives tangled, and figure out finances of two households, not one... I was the recipient of free school lunches. I never thought that would be my life, and looking back it seems almost surreal. I grew up in a comfortable home, with all the amenities.  My life was so comfortable, that at one point, as I handed in my lunch ticket, the classmate who helped in the lunchroom looked at me and with the zero tact of a junior high aged kid said, "you get free lunches? I thought you were rich." I didn't know what to say. What I mostly remember is skipping lunches as often as I could. Trying to make it from the time I left for school, until I got home so I didn't have to endure the humiliation of that free lunch ticket.

For three years, I carried that card. I can remember family members buying us new clothes for the holidays, having no idea that we were on "government aid". I can only imagine the thoughts of those around me, as I hear it echoed so often today. "The kids have brand new [cell phones/video games] and yet they suck off the government." Those words sting. I travel back to my time of getting free lunches in my own new clothes. I didn't know then what folks must have been thinking, but I hear it today and it breaks my 12 year old heart. I felt so stupid as it was, getting free lunches. To think I was reviled and hated because it was a way to make sure I had something to eat in the middle of the day... I still shake my head.

I was a lucky one. My time was temporary. It ended. I wonder about those who see no end. Those whose parents work two or three jobs wondering why they never get ahead. I wonder what it must be like.

And in a tiny slice of my brain, I remember. I know what it was like.

That is why food should be like air. It just should "be there".


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