MOST CULTURES seem to have their own version of The Big Meal story. Ours comes with associated tales of perilous travels, oddball relatives or the host who insists that his medium-rare turkey is perfectly cooked.
Even though we know more now about the warfare and misery that followed the Native Americans’ early encounters with Pilgrims, the Thanksgiving feast still creates an opportunity to appreciate how lucky we are to live here. That good fortune includes our neighbors who volunteer at municipal food pantries in Chatham, Hillsdale, Germantown, Ghent, Hudson, Kinderhook, New Lebanon and Taghkanic, or who collect donated food or prepare and distribute meals to others. All of them are busier than ever right now trying to meet the need. After all, nobody should have to go without a feast on Thanksgiving.
Around here it’s possible that on this one day there are meals enough to feed everybody who would like one. Then come the other 364 days of the year. The core volunteers work just as hard to find food to share. If they come up short, it’s no fault of their own.
The Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation (BTCF) reports that 2,400 children in Columbia County are considered “food insecure,” meaning that they or their caretakers don’t have the money to be certain these children will have nutritious meals. Think on that: Two thousand four hundred children.
We know where these kids and their families live: 75% of the people living in poverty in Columbia County live outside the City of Hudson. The census data say that 88% of them are white.
Some of them receive help in the form of SNAP, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Program that used to be called food stamps. Often, it isn’t enough to feed a family even when parents work full time.
This is not a problem of whether there’s “enough” food. Columbia is still an agricultural county despite the obstacles farmers face, like financial risks and long hours, not to high prices paid for scenic farmland that reward development not food production. And then there’s the paradox that as we grapple with reducing food insecurity, the county also has an obesity problem.
These problems will not be resolved over Thanksgiving dinner. Doing without that second slice of pie won’t change the county, the world or our waistlines. But we can change how we discuss food insecurity and we can start by choosing not to shame or judge others, especially children, just because they lack the money to pay for a good meal this holiday or at any other time.
Consider this a conviction to share around the table this Thursday.
If you want to know more, BTCF is guiding private funds to support creative local efforts as part of its Fresh and Healthy Food for All initiative. Check it out at www.berkshiretaconic.org.
Access to nutritious food is a human right that everyone, regardless of age or economic status, should exercise at least three times a day. We can help make that possible.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving.