Last week my husband and I joined a friend at the UU Meetinghouse in Amherst. She had organized a community viewing of the (very powerful) documentary, “A Place At The Table.” It was disheartening to learn that 50 million Americans rely on charitable food programs – Americans like our police, fire and healthcare workers, as well as teachers and sadly, students. As Jeff Bridges says, “Charity is a great thing, but it’s not the way to end hunger.”
And while the documentary was startling and effective in delivering statistics, stories, and information about poverty and hunger in our country – at the end there was no concrete, “call to action.” So when the film was over I sat overwhelmed, feeling helpless and angry. What could one person do? We live in an area where so many neighbors are already very generous with their time, efforts, and financial contributions.
Thankfully, Mindy Domb, the Executive Director of the Amherst Survival Center was also there and was very helpful answering all our questions. Yes, it is overwhelming and although the larger efforts will involve sending people to Washington to vote to reduce unnecessary agribusiness subsidies and improve the quality of the services the government offers to the millions of hungry Americans in all of our communities, there are local needs and we can help meet those today.
When I asked Mindy later what kinds of items the food pantries need but don’t often receive, she said, “spices.” Spices? Sure! Just because a family needs to use a food pantry to supplement the inadequate level of assistance they receive, doesn’t mean they don’t want to be able to cook a good-tasting meal. Lots of generous folks donate cans of vegetables and bags of grains, but what about those tiny bursts of flavor that can make a meal delicious. Taste, perhaps, not so much like it came from a food pantry.
This is a time of year when we are all generous with the hungry in our communities – why not consider the small gift of dried parsley, garlic, turmeric or cinnamon in addition to those bags of rice or cans of cut green beans?