For anyone who still is under the impression that a) poor people are poor because they choose to be or b) America is immune to the situation, I submit to you this NPR report on Hunger in America. I especially recommend this section which chronicles the story of the Hankins, a family of five in western Virginia that makes around $22,000 a year, with the husband working full time and wife working part time. They are one of 38 million families in America classified by the Department of Agriculture as “food insecure” – people who can’t be certain of having enough money to buy food.
While the text of the story is good, I would encourage you to listen to the voices of the people – real people – who work hard every day, and still have trouble making ends meet.
Here are some of the statistics listed on NPR’s site which come from the USDA report on food insecurity and Second Harvest’s survey of 32,000 families.
Rural U.S. population considered “food insecure”: 7.4 million
Percentage of U.S. adults defined as “food insecure” reporting skipping meals or cutting meal sizes: 6.6 percent
Proportion of all U.S. households with children reporting children often or sometimes don’t get enough food: 4.6 percent
Proportion of people surveyed at America’s Second Harvest emergency food services forced to choose between buying food and paying utility bills: 45 percent
Proportion of people surveyed by America’s Second Harvest forced to choose between buying food and rent or mortgage payments: 36 percent
Proportion of people surveyed by America’s Second Harvest forced to choose between buying food and paying for medicine or medical care: 30 percent
Proportion of households surveyed by America’s Second Harvest reporting at least one family member in poor health: 29 percent
I particularly appreciated Brian’s suggestion this morning that our generosity toward God is at least in some way reflected by our generosity toward others. It is particularly convicting that I will think nothing of purchasing a 3 dollar cup of coffee when there are people in my own city who don’t have enough food to eat. Statistics like this serve as a reminder to me, and hopefully to us all, that poverty is not a problem for someone else to deal with.
I believe Jerrell said it best this morning: “When we say, ‘Poor people choose to be poor,’ what we’re really saying is, ‘It’s your fault that you’re poor, and therefore I don’t have to do anything about it.'” I believe we are called to reach out to the poor, that God often associates himself with the poor and oppressed, and that ultimately using the blessings we have for others returns more to us than we give away.