For me, the stages of hunger are:
- I could eat.
- I need to eat.
- Taco Bell sounds GOOD.
- Stay away. I’m grumpy.
Of course, at any given time I’ve got a pretty good idea of where my next meal is coming from and I know how I am going to pay for it. Not all of God’s children are that fortunate.
In America in the best of times, there are almost 40 million people in this country who are undernourished. That number only rises when times get harder and unemployment grows. More people in the unemployment lines – people who want to work but simply cannot find employment – means more people come to rely on government assistance programs, charity and other such means to put food on the table.
Add to this group of Americans who are unemployed or underemployed those individuals who through no fault of their own simply cannot work and the total number of potential American victims of this hunger epidemic is staggering. The entire population of the state of Missouri – every man, woman, and child in the state – is only one-eighth the size of the total population of America currently living in a state of hunger.
Food stamps are not enough. It is a widely-known fact that many of the poorest Americans make food purchasing decisions that are not the healthiest when using food stamps. However, the reason for this is not as widely know. It is not a matter of ignorance so much as it is a matter of desperation. If you have only two dollars to spend on food, the simple fact is that you can buy more calories worth of cookies for two bucks than you can get calories in carrots for the same amount.
The Society of St. Andrew provides more than 60 million servings of fresh fruits and vegetables to America’s hungry every year. This fine organization distributes food to more than 2,000 agencies nationwide that get the food to those in need at no cost to the recipient. Every fresh potato, every ear of corn, every single apple delivered to a hungry American represents not one but many people answering Christ’s call to feed the hungry.
Feeding the hungry is one of the corporal works of mercy. We are all called to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy by both natural and Divine law. Nowhere is this call made more explicit than in Christ’s teaching in Matthew 25:31-46:
“When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.
“Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’
“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
“Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’
“Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Find out more about the Society of St. Andrew and how you can answer the Lord’s call to feed the hungry by participating in the work of this fine organization by visiting www.endhunger.org.