Monday, October 1, 2012

Food Inequality

A few weeks ago while driving back to work after lunch, I was overwhelmed with emotions I still can't quite describe.  Having just eaten a large meal, my thoughts turned to the next one.  I was trying to decide what to do for dinner.  I was leaning toward cooking instead of eating out and contemplating "what sounds good."

A now-forgotten recipe entered my mind, and at a stop light in front of a grocery store on the two-mile drive between work and home, I began lamenting that I didn't have all the ingredients for it.  I would have to make a very inconvenient trip to the store or settle on something else. 

And not the grocery store I was stopped next to.  I had visited it a couple times and judged the ambiance and freshness of produce and meat better at another local store.  One that is about two miles from my house in the other direction.  It's a real hassle.

Disappointed at my tough luck, I began thinking of things I could make with what I already had in the cupboard.  Head in hand, I pulled away at the green light and was hit with the thought of the millions of people around the world who had no lunch to eat that day and would have no dinner.  Maybe not the next day or the next either.

Hollow, starved people who would gratefully eat any food available to them.  For whom choices in supermarkets, grades and cuts of meat, and processed or fresh produce are completely foreign.  People who wonder how far they can stretch a pot of rice or beans.  When I only wonder how much I can eat and still fit in my pants.

In my car, I wondered how I would feel eating my big, juicy steak in front of their big, hungry eyes.  I was reminded of a recent trip to visit family and friends in Wichita where I literally ate myself sick trying to cram in as many restaurants, meals and visits with people as possible.  I felt even sicker when I looked into the eyes of a homeless man who had only what people offered him to eat. 

I was overcome and ended up with more questions than answers that day.  More overwhelming problems than workable solutions.  But, this is what I decided:

First, to do a little research.  According to there are 295 million hungry people in the world even though more than 2700 calories are produced daily for them.  That's an inequality that should sadden and enrage all of us.

Second, to do something about it.  There are plenty of organizations, locally and globally, that work to feed people.  I'm getting involved with them and encourage everyone else to, as well.

Third, to think about the food I eat.  Differently.  While I understand that my leftovers can't be shipped to hungry kids in China, I can eat less to leave more for others.  I can eat smarter and more responsibly.  I'm not going vegetarian or vegan, but I do recognize that rice is more sustainable than beef.  And if I save money on the food I eat, then that money can be used to buy food for others.

Last, to be grateful.  The fact that I've only ever worried about what to pick to eat and not when I will get to eat is an amazing, amazing blessing.  So is the fact that I can choose between supermarkets and farmer's markets and family farms and backyard gardens.  I'm more thankful than ever at the delicious food I'm privileged to eat.  And I feel more responsible than ever to savor it and save it.

I still am committed to celebrating food, but I want as many people to join the party as possible. 

Invite others to your dinner table, too.

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