We’re expecting a new refrigerator to be delivered this week. The one we have has worked faithfully for twenty-three years, but we thought we’d be pro-active and not wait until it died. It’s a nineties side-by-side with limited space, so years ago, we bought a small used Kenmore for the garage to hold beer and sodas and extra food for picnics and holidays. I use it constantly, especially for garden harvests in the summer and as a staging area for big grocery runs, which I do more frequently in these days of eating primarily at home. The garage frig occasionally drips a little condensation on the top shelf, but otherwise appears healthy and this past week, went off to a new owner. The kitchen frig will be moved to the garage when the new one arrives, and we’re crossing our fingers that it will adjust to its loss of status without complaint.
Many of us have two refrigerators as well as a separate freezer because there is such an abundance of food in our lives. We don’t give grocery shopping or online food ordering a second thought. If we run out of something, we go out and get more. If we purchase bulk packages of chicken breasts at the wholesale club, we’ve got room to store them. We are surrounded by local farms producing wonderful fruits and vegetables. But on Sunday I was again reminded that’s not the case for an ever-growing number of people in this country. During the Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope’s sermon in the Washington National Cathedral’s livestreamed service, she mentioned a recent article in the New York Times Magazine that chronicles hunger in America. In this land of super-size me, of endless buffets, of an entire television network dedicated to food, more people than ever are going hungry.
It’s a sobering article especially the pictures of children grabbing for hot dogs and the little girl clutching a loaf of bread as though it were a beloved stuffed animal. Much of the food being consumed is processed and nutritionally lacking—heavy on the carbs and salt and light on the fresh produce. The photo-journalist traveled across the country to tell her story, but we don’t have to go that far. The pandemic has pulled back the curtain on a reality that has been all too easy to ignore for those of us blessed with full pantries and full bellies.
I frequently pass the new emergency food hub on the east end of town and the parking lot is filled with cars waiting in line. Hunger is right here, right now. And I know some may say that those receiving food are too lazy to find jobs or they spend their money on the wrong things or they just want to work the system. Yes, there’s always going to be some of that. But until we’ve walked in the shoes of a laid-off single parent or an elderly grandmother caring for grandchildren on her social security income, let’s not rush to judgement. Hunger is never a choice.
As I wait for my fancy new refrigerator that I can fill with my latest haul from Wegman’s, I think about how some people in this article don’t even have one place to keep their food, let alone two. I cannot begin to fathom what it means to be hungry or to not know when you’ll be able to feed your family again. The Crop Walks, food banks, and many local and national organizations are fighting this battle, but it’s a long way from being won.