We’ve had some snow here in New York City. Okay, so it’s a lot of snow, and unless you live under a rock somewhere, this isn’t exactly breaking news. What seems to be news to many people around the country now is the fact that there are many children in our great city who rely on the public school system for up to two of their meals a day. The school also provides a warm, safe place for them. Think of it as shelter from the storm, but not the literal storm outside.
My question to everyone is a simple one. Is it really a surprise that millions of people, children and adults, go starving every day? I don’t think that’s the case. Hunger is a dirty little secret in this country, one that we so easily blame on our government. I’m generally the first person to agree with that theory. The recent farm bill that was passed this week, while slightly better than originally thought we would get passed, is still vivid proof that our Congress people err on the side of big business, over the best interests of tax paying citizens.
But what does that mean for the current situation? The one where our Mayor Bill DiBlasio defends his choice to keep schools open, in the same breathe that he warns of very hazardous conditions. When we’re told that public schools are primarily viewed as a warm place, that serves two meals a day, and serves as a daycare center for children of working parents, what does that evoke in you? Do you agree that it’s a suitable solution, or does it make you want to dig deeper at the root of the problem? Do you feel it’s okay to be complacent while children are left in this situation, pawns of a broken system, or does it inspire you to make the change you want to see in the world?
The right to life shouldn’t just revolve around an unborn fetus. The right to life is missing one salient word—quality. As citizens of these United States, we deserve the right to a quality life. Some may say this is too simplistic a view, and to that I counter that I am fully aware of the uphill battle involved in providing a quality life for all of our citizens. We may be created equal, but the lot we are given at delivery is only one we can change once we become adults.
That doesn’t mean we have to be complacent to the current situation. If we are so outraged at the thought that it was better for children to trek through ice, wind, and snow to get to a hot meal, and safe place, why aren’t we doing something about it? The answer is that some people are working hard for those children, but they need more help. We can move onto the next news story once the warmer weather arrives, or we can let this ignite our hearts and minds to be better citizens.
Two years ago, I spent Thanksgiving with a dear friend. She told me about a program called Backpack Buddies at her school in Raleigh, NC. The volunteer-run program is in place to fill the food gap between Friday lunch and Monday breakfast for children who receive free or reduced-price lunches. The night she told me about this, she also mentioned that they had a waiting list of 20+ families, but not enough funding. I left a few days later, my belly full from days of hot, homecooked meals, and my heart filled with loving memories. I also boarded my plane back to New York, my daughters’ tiny hands wrapped in mine, knowing that the contribution I made to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle meant three children would have something to eat on weekends for the rest of the school year. It wasn’t the full answer to the solution, but it is an example of how we can make a difference in this world. We do not have to be silent. We can be the change we want to see in the world.
It starts now. It starts with me, and you. All of us can make a difference if we really want it.
Below are a few organizations I contribute to here in NYC. I would like to use this post as a gathering place to list other organizations from around the country that are helping fight the good fight. Please leave me a message in the comments with links to charities that other readers might be able to help offer support. The truth is that the Mayor’s reasoning shed light on more than just hunger. It is a spider’s web of child welfare issues and benefits issues (maternity leave, worker’s rights, paid sick leave, etc.) that need to be addressed on a national level. If you volunteer or contribute to organizations that are working on any of these issues, please let me know about them, too.