Including Those Who Hunger

A recent New York Times story mentions how the temple offerings of poor people in India are not what they used to be. Rising food prices makes it harder for them to buy enough milk for both themselves and the gods, or whatever food they would have ordinarily shared. In Cambodia a popular school breakfast is being phased out because the UN food program that sponsors it is now forced to make cutbacks. So many stories I’ve read over the last few weeks let me know how the rise in food prices is affecting the lives of so many in just about every part of the globe. Even in the U.S. food pantries are having a hard time keeping up with increasing demand. And yet, among the people I know the issue of food prices does not come up. None to my knowledge has had to make real adjustments. It’s not that I run around those wealthy enough to be immune to such things as food prices, it just seems that the people I talk to frequently don’t really have to worry about food. Sure, some may have to forego buying this or that item, postpone a vacation, avoid having household help or color their hair themselves, but none has had to alter his or her way of eating–unless of course they were dieting.

When I think of people in Egypt not being able to buy bread, of people in Mexico buying less tortillas, of people in India having less rice and lentils, and people in Africa sometimes not being able to buy food at all, I want to shake those I know who deign pasta because it has too many carbs, who won’t buy veggies unless they’re organic, who have the luxuries of buying carbon neutral products regardless of what they cost, who won’t eat leftovers and throw out food, who won’t eat chicken unless it’s at least free range, or who allow a caprice to let food rot in the frig because they feel like eating something else. But of course shaking them would not instill the sense of privilege we ought to feel. Sometimes we can’t help our circumstances, and the people I have in mind didn’t choose their advantages, but regardless of our advantages, large or small, those of us who have, have a responsibility to those who have not. It often hurts to remember that many go hungry while I and so many count calories not to gain weight, and it’s easy to forget about those who hunger, because frankly, sometimes bringing them into consciousness also brings pain.

It’s easy to assuage the murmurings of our principles, ethics and scruples by writing a check to whatever charity will next solicit us. But it’s not enough. We must widen the range of our conscience to deepen our understanding of what it means to share.