STARVING IN A LAND OF PLENTY

Food, food everywhere and not a bite to eat.

Okay, so that’s not exactly the way Coleridge wrote it in the Rime of Ancient Mariner.  Nevertheless, that is the first thing that came to my mind as I read the really interesting article in the most recent issue (August 2014) of National Geographic magazine.  The article’s title is “The New Face of Hunger.”

An interesting article
An interesting article

The basic premise is that people are starving to death in cities because they do not have access to nutritious food.  Although these people have subsidies or assistance, the food they receive is highly processed.  They live in cities where a fast food restaurant sits on every corner, but there are no grocery stores.

I agree with their analysis of the problem, one that I have been talking about for a long time and preached more than one sermon about it.  People are starving to death with food everywhere because we have created a system of incompetence.

You read that correctly.  The problem of hunger is not primarily an economic one, it is an competency problem, and the longer I live the more I am convinced that incompetency will the end of our way of life.

The solution to hunger must have a two handed approach, because the situation is serious and something must be done to fix the problem before it is too late.  The bad news is that it will take at least one, and probably two generations to do it.

1.  We must feed children.  I don’t care what other problems are involved, we can’t let children be truly hungry.  Therefore, programs for food through schools and weekend programs should be fully funded without political wrangling.  However, these programs should also include two other aspects.  One, instead of highly processed food perhaps we should use vegetables, fresh food, and local dairy.  It will cost more to do this in the short run, but it will pay dividends in the long run with healthier children (and a healthy future) and a supported local agriculture.

A second requirement should be the total, universal enforcement of culinary training at the high school level.  We used to call this home ec, and we all made fun of it, but we were all taught how to scramble an egg, boil a noodle, peel a potato, make a salad, cut a chicken up to fry, and how to shop.  These skills are almost absent in most children today and their parents, and that leads me to the second hand we have to use in solving our food problem.

2.  Food subsidies should be increased in dollar amount, but limited to the purchase of ingredients for home cooked meals instead of whatever highly processed food is on the shelf.  Flour, milk, eggs, noodles, lettuce, frozen veggies, raw meat, rice, vinegar, oil, butter, and so many other items are what I have in mind.  It should be forbidden for these individuals to use government subsidies (SNAP, food stamps) for convenience store foods, burritos in a package, sugary cereals, heat-n-heat meals, or potato chips.  I would even support increasing exponentially food subsidy amounts if purchases were made at farmers markets. These should likewise be given only as an adjunct to mandatory basic culinary classes.

We have a competency problem in our country–people don’t know how to cook.  What they often call cooking is really just microwaving.  We would be a healthier, and more economically prosperous people if we would turn the television off and put down the iPhone long enough to spend the 25-30 minutes it takes to cook a meal at home from scratch.  A pot of pinto beans can feed a family for two or three days, and it is cheaper than feeding one person supper at McDonalds (and that is if I put a little hamburger meat in it, peppers, tomatoes, onions, and some brown sugar to sweet the beans).  The problem is that people don’t how to cook because they are never been told.  It was an assumed skill, that can no longer be assumed.

If we don’t fix this problem soon, increasing numbers of Americans will go to bed hungry, all the while surrounded by the greatest abundance the world has ever seen.

BONUS–for an interesting article on SNAP purchases, read this article (click here).  Make sure and read some of the comments as people completely miss the point.  Under no circumstances should soda be a government subsidized purchase.

BEACH READING

Okay, it isn’t really beach reading because I was not at the beach. But during vacation I did read; and thought I would share some of my reading with you.

Let’s start with the magazines.  I read my July edition of “National Geographic.”  The feature article was about Cleopatra.  It wasn’t nearly as exciting as I thought it would be; but Natgeo is always one of my favorite magazines and I look forward to it each month.  I also read the July/August “Biblical Archaeology Review”.  It too is one of my favorites and it did not disappoint.  I especially enjoyed the articles about the martyrium of Philip and the ivories of Nimrud.

I also read several books.  In Mesa Verde, Colorado I picked up a book titled The Mesa Verde WorldExplorations in Ancestral Pueblo Archaeology.  It is an anthology from various authors bringing several different perspectives on the Mesa Verde ruins and it has great photographs!

Professionally I read a book titled The 21st Century Pastor by David Fisher.  I’ve had this book in my library for almost a year and finally decided to read it.  The book is really great; but poorly named.  It is not really about the 21st century pastor at all, it is about the struggles of being a pastor in the late 20th century.  Personally I identify with much of the writer’s views and agree with his conclusions.  The ideal reader of this book would be a young minister fresh out of seminary.  The book is dated; being 15 years old and I wish I’d read it 15 years ago.

A friend of mine from church gave me the book Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton.  Once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down; that is how good it is.  I will not give any spoilers, but it is a novel that will make you think and break your heart.  I highly recommend it, (thanks Mike!).  This was the most enjoyable and meaningful literature I’ve read in a long time.

About a month ago I picked up Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter-House Five at a garage sale for fifty cents.  I’d never read Vonnegut but had heard about him.  Slaughter-House Five is a very hard book to read because it is violent, disturbing, and profane but it is also an important book to read.  There is a profound message in the pages.   Slaughter-House Five is odd, quirky, and funny; but not in a “funny ha-ha” kind of funny.  Mature adults should read this; but do not read it if you are easily offended.  Vonnegut could never have gotten published today—the world is just too sensitive.

I continued reading Pascal’s Pensees.  I have not finished it, and am beginning to wonder if I ever will.  I enjoy reading it, but the material is so dense that I never feel like I am making progress toward completing the book.

I took with me a book a friend gave me titled The Rickover Effect which is about Admiral Rickover and how he influenced the U.S. Navy.  I did not get to it, but will start soon because when my friend gave it to me he said, “Read this and you’ll understand sailors better.”  Since many of the people I minister to are connected to the Navy; reading this book and fixing apparent defects in my ministry is an important learning endeavor.