by Jan Lewis
A box of Hamburger Helper, three cans of green beans, three cans of corn, a box of Rice Krispies cereal, a jar of pasta sauce and a package of spaghetti, a box of rice and bag of beans, two cans of fruit cocktail and two cans of peaches, some tuna or canned chicken, a couple of boxes of Jell-O, two loaves of day-old bread. If it is a good day, maybe some frozen hamburger or chicken, a package of hot dogs or a frozen pizza.
As you walk to the bus stop with your two bags of “groceries,” you are grateful for the help that you have just received. The food will get you by until the first of the month when your next paycheck arrives. The rent and utilities will take up most of that check, but you are hoping that there will be enough left for you to go to Wal-Mart; it would be nice to have some apples or maybe a few fresh vegetables to eat.
You are one of the thousands who visit a Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas emergency assistance center each year, hoping to find help and relying on the generosity of others to get you through a rough patch, to get you through to the end of the month. The number of people in need has been staggering this past year, which should come as no surprise with the employment rate hovering at 10 percent. Since last July 1, Catholic Charities has distributed over $1 million in donated food and personal care items, up 20 percent from the same time last year.
I want to express my thanks to the multitude of individuals, families, corporations and churches that give over and over again to keep our pantry shelves stocked. The demand is never-ending and the volunteers who have made feeding the hungry their mission are tireless in their efforts.
But still, we can do better.
My dream is that we will someday have the capacity to provide healthy food for our neighbors in need. My dream is that we will have community gardens that provide fresh vegetables in the summer. My dream is that our donors will shop for the hungry like they shop for their own families — natural grains, low-sodium canned goods, fruits that aren’t dripping in heavy syrup, and tuna that is not dripping in heavy oil.
Take a look at the list that started this column. Is this the diet that you would want to feed your family?
For the 90 percent of us that are still working, we have an obligation to care for the least of our brothers and sisters. Let us care for them as we would care for our own.