Not just feeding the hungry, but feeding the spirit

| Kathy Tomlin | November 20, 2013 | 0 Comments

utensils_webThanksgiving is just around the corner, and many of us are planning time with friends and family, getting caught up in lists, gift buying and decorating. We look forward to the meal and camaraderie.

Amidst all of this, it’s easy to forget those for whom a meal is a basic need, those who struggle to put food on the table every day of the year.

Sitting down and enjoying a meal together is a simple privilege that is easily overlooked. It nourishes mind, body and spirit.

No one knows this more than Eugene, a formerly homeless Marine veteran who was able to get back on his feet by working in the kitchen at Dorothy Day Center. The kitchen is where he finds peace and is able to express himself. Eugene has worked in many restaurants over his lifetime, but now is only interested in feeding those who need it most: homeless men and women — the community he was part of for many years.

In 2013, Catholic Charities served more than 1 million meals in the Twin Cities metro region. Since 2008, food shelf usage in the Twin Cities suburbs has risen by 90 percent. One in five families with children struggle to put food on the table. This has become a large issue in our community, but we can change that and you can help.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), is the largest food assistance program in the country. In 2012, it served 47 million low-income Americans.

SNAP is facing major cuts — some are proposed for the next fiscal year, and some that automatically took effect in October and November of this year. Currently, one in 10 Minnesota households receive SNAP benefits, including 556,692 parents, children, seniors, people with disabilities and others.

Ways to make a difference

We can help create awareness of the cuts proposed to SNAP and take action by asking our U.S. senators and representatives to oppose these cuts. Defeating proposed cuts will prevent 4 to 6 million Americans from losing crucial food support and allow these families to focus on other areas of need.

Food stability and nutrition for children is extremely important as it allows for better learning outcomes, which translates to brighter futures. This may seem like a small piece of the puzzle, but it is an important one that can help create a strong community where there is opportunity for everyone.

Catholic Charities participates each year in the Walk to End Hunger, which was formed as part of the Twin Cities Hunger Initiative, a collaboration of hunger relief partner agencies that have developed a definitive plan to eliminate hunger in the Twin Cities. It’s a way to give thanks and give back to the community before you sit down and enjoy your Thanksgiving meal. Consider joining our team this year.

Churches and other organizations serve Thanksgiving meals and, more often than not, more people volunteer on this day than are needed. But the need continues beyond the current holiday season. Consider volunteering in the middle of February or March as well. Just another small, yet tangible way to help work toward an end to this growing problem.

By pulling together as a society, we can raise our voices for people like Eugene — who view food not just as a basic human right, but as a way to feed and nourish the spirit.

Tomlin is vice president for social justice advocacy for Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis

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Category: Social Concerns