From Second Harvest's Hunger Study:
WHO RECEIVES EMERGENCY FOOD ASSISTANCE?Drawing from what I have said in previous years, I want to repeat a few thoughts to the Christians who might be reading this regarding our motivation for ending hunger.
A2H Network agencies serve a broad cross-section of households in America. Estimates of key characteristics include:
• 36.4% of the members of households served by the A2H National Network are children under 18 years old (Table 5.3.2).
• 8% of the members of households are children age 0 to 5 years (Table 5.3.2).
• 10% of the members of households are elderly (Table 5.3.2).
• About 40% of clients are non-Hispanic white; 38% are non-Hispanic black, and the rest are from other racial groups. 17% are Hispanic (Table 5.6.1).
• 36% of households include at least one employed adult (Table 5.7.1).
• 68% have incomes below the official federal poverty level (Table 188.8.131.52) during the previous month.
• 12% are homeless (Table 184.108.40.206).
MANY A2H CLIENTS ARE FOOD INSECURE OR ARE EXPERIENCING HUNGER
• Among all client households served by emergency food programs of the A2H National Network, 70% are estimated to be food insecure, according to the U.S. government’s official food security scale. This includes client households who are food insecure without hunger and those who are food insecure with hunger (Table 6.1.1).
• 33% of the clients are experiencing hunger (Table 6.1.1).
• Among households with children, 73% are food insecure and 31% are experiencing hunger (Table 6.1.1).
MANY CLIENTS REPORT HAVING TO CHOOSE BETWEEN FOOD AND OTHER NECESSITIES
• 42% of clients served by the A2H National Network report having to choose between paying for food and paying for utilities or heating fuel (Table 6.5.1).
• 35% had to choose between paying for food and paying their rent or mortgage (Table 6.5.1).
• 32% had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care (Table 6.5.1).
There is a tendency among programs reaching out to the poor to separate the "worthy" and "unworthy" poor. The worthy are those who appear to have the best chance of becoming a success story. The unworthy are those who seem to be beyond hope; addicts, mentally ill, etc. We have a bias for the poor, not because they are worthy or unworthy, but because they are deserving of the dignity and respect of a creation of God. We do not feed the hungry because they are worthy, but because they are human, and thus children of God.
We do not feed the hungry because we are good people. When Christians get into the front trenches of the struggle against hunger, they find lots of other people already there. Some will be there because of a need to be the "good guys," to assure themselves that they are good people. These are wonderful folks, willingly working hard on many a project, but too much patting oneself on the back can develop a community spirit of elitism.
We do not feed the hungry because we believe we can make this a better world. In the front trenches we will also find lots of social workers, who will be some of the most committed and experienced members of the community. Their goal is to make this a better world for everyone. This is a commendable goal, yet not the primary one for Christians.
We feed the hungry because Jesus told us to do so. Yes, we want to do good deeds. But the goodness of the deed is not enough. Our compassion is a sign of an even greater goodness.
We feed the hungry, not simply because we are good, but to point toward food for the soul; the goodness of God. We feed the hungry, not simply to make this a better world, but to point the way to the compassion of God, which embraces us all. The unique element we bring to the struggle against hunger is the person of Jesus Christ. Our motivation can come closest to being altruistic, as it is not drawn from our need to prove we are good, or save our species, but from our desire to glorify God. The good deed and good stewardship of creation are fringe benefits springing from our desire to reveal Christ to the world. What better way to reveal Christ than to follow his example?
Sometimes, simple is best. Jesus cared for the hungry. Christians care for the hungry.
"I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me." Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."
- Matthew 25:35-40Don't forget to visit The Hunger Site.