As I was sitting in the Kansas Union a few days ago, I was visiting with an international student about her impressions of America, from politics to life in general. But in the midst of our conversation the following statement struck me, and I haven't been able to forget it.
"Before moving to the U.S. a few months ago, I never thought I would see and hear of people who are hungry or who don't have homes. ... We never thought of that image when we were taught about America."
What a sad, but true, reality. Though we are termed the "greatest country in the world," we have this happening in every state, and in most communities and universities. Americans have to decide on food or shelter, food or health care, food or transportation. This should not be the case, but it is our reality, in our own backyard.
The ideologies I've heard in the past when this subject arises of, "if they got a job," "that's what we get for having illegals here," "they shouldn't be in school if they can't afford it," "we choose the way we want our life to be" are first of all not true, and secondly, irrelevant when discussing this matter.
The truth is this: There are working poor, children who worry about what they will eat tomorrow, seniors who fret about what's next, students who left home for a chance to seek higher education for the betterment of themselves and country, and minorities who came here to experience the American Dream but were slapped in the face with oppression and an economic turmoil. This, my friends, is the truth we face right here and right now.
According to "Map the Meal Gap" study released by Feeding America (with an update in May), 16.1 percent of Americans (more than 48.8 million people) 15 percent of Kansans (more than 428,000) and 12.1 percent of those who live in Ellis County (nearly 3,500) suffer from "food insecurity," which refers to the USDA's measure for "lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods." (Source: FeedingAmerica.org)
As the holiday season approaches, let us push back our judgments, not try to determine who is "worthy and unworthy," but rather open our hearts by donating time to a homeless shelter or food bank/pantry, open our own kitchen pantries to help stock another's, and finally open our minds to realize that this reality is among us. Let us find ways to ensure every single person who claims this country home has the same "gifts" we do.
Recently, under the collaboration of different leaders throughout the Fort Hays State University campus, the Tiger Food Exchange was created. While this pantry is in its first phase, the need that already has occurred shows this is a much-needed resource to the Tiger family. Holiday meal packs are being created to ensure everyone gets the chance to have a hot meal for the holidays. If you have gently used pots and pans or are able to donate stuffing mixes, spices, canned vegetables or other non-perishable foods for a holiday meal, donations always will be accepted and can be dropped off inside Forsyth Library on the FHSU campus.
Lawrence (formerly of Victoria)