When Accompaniment Becomes a Calling
by Vernita Kennen
Many of us who have been involved in working to end hunger for many years are always surprised when a “new face of hunger” is talked about in the media. Frequently the face is not new but simply resurfaced and now a more focused concern of the public, media and politicians. I was, unfortunately, not surprised to see that older Americans are now the “new” face of hunger.
The roots of the problem of those who are hungry (older or not) are much the same. Firstly, people cannot afford food, even when supplemented with SNAP funds. Often people live in what we know as “food deserts” with limited or no access to fresh produce and other nutritious food. Rural areas suffer as much as urban areas in access. Often older and low income people do not understand nutrition well and settle for that food which is cheapest.
There are some creative programs out there to help people who are hungry. I recently read about some Kroger supermarkets in Tennessee and Missouri who provide a 50% off coupon for fresh produce to shoppers who use a SNAP card to buy $10 in fresh fruits and vegetables. Some Brown’s Super Stores in Philadelphia have an on-site nutritionist or dietitian. Perhaps you know of some health professionals who write prescriptions for fruits and vegetables, sometimes accompanied with recipes. We also have congregations in the Saint Paul Area Synod who are fighting hunger in creative ways. Zion Lutheran in Saint Paul offers weekly a hot meal, a bag of healthful groceries, and other health education classes to those directly in their neighborhood through their "Feeding Faith" initiative. Many of the people benefited from Feeding Faith are low-income, low-mobility senior citizens - or, the "new faces of hunger."
We can learn from these creative programs. Perhaps your congregation or organization might want to invite a nutrition speaker to one of your regularly scheduled events. Helping people understand which foods are both highly nutritious as well as providing “nutritional bang for your buck” would interest people with families as well as older people. Think about how can your congregation or organization address any "food deserts" that might exist in your neighborhood, limiting people's access to bountiful or healthful foods. Everyone would like to be eating well and feeling well. How can you help?