In fact, for thousands of Long Islanders, including kids and senior citizens, Thanksgiving was just another day of uncertainty in the food department.
Surprised by this? If so, you're not alone.
In an affluent place like Long Island, it's easy to forget that many of our neighbors rely on local pantries, kitchens, churches, and shelters for emergency food supplies each week. Many of these organizations themselves depend upon food banks, such as Long Island Cares and Island Harvest, as their primary source of food. And many food banks, in turn, depend upon individuals--people like us--to keep their shelves stocked.
If you're a data guy, here are some numbers about hunger (from Long Island Cares) worth pondering:
- Almost 65,000 Long Islanders take advantage of emergency food services each week.
- Children under 18, people with almost no control over their lives or futures, make up the largest single population of Long Island's hungry (39%).
- Roughly half (48%) of those receiving regular food assistance on L.I. are employed, with 63% having incomes falling below the federal poverty level.
Combating hunger--and poverty in general--is indeed a tough task, one that involves coming to grips with a host of economic, political, social, and human factors. But the complexity of the problem doesn't mean we should turn a blind eye to those for whom the most basic of human needs--eating--is a daily question mark.
What can you do?
Taking part in one of NCC's many campus food drives, launching a hunger awareness project on campus or in your community, volunteering at a local food bank, or lobbying for legislation that affords people the diet and dignity they deserve--all are important. They won't solve our (yes, OUR) hunger problem overnight, but they'll help. They'll certainly beat hand-wringing or--worse--pretending the problem is somebody else's.
Because it's not.
If you enjoyed your Thanksgiving dinner yesterday (as I did), great. If you went to bed last night with a full belly, even better. But until everyone in our midst can make the same claim, not only on Thanksgiving but every other day, we've all got serious work to do.