We are preparing to go to Mexico where our small foundation feeds some 600 students every day.
These are Mayan children living in rural villages. COVID closed these communities, along with their schools. Last month, we started providing food again, and I am anxious to see how these kids fared without it.
My anxiety about hunger was heightened by a priest friend in the Philippines ministering among sugarcane workers.
In their effort to fight COVID, the government quarantines families of infected individuals for two weeks, which is repeated if another family member gets sick.
Living hand-to-mouth, these families cannot work and cannot buy food. We hear about people “dying with complications due to COVID,” but we don’t consider starvation one of those complications.
Then I read that after four decades of invasion and internal violence, 22.8 million people in Afghanistan could suffer a food crisis this winter. Among them are 14 million children whose lives will be marked, if not ended, by the food they do not have.
Here, in the world’s wealthiest country, over 40 million people will experience food insecurity this year. Many of those lacking access to sufficient affordable and nutritious food do not qualify for government assistance, or even with help, still fall short.
These people end up in the lines for free food distribution where my wife and I were again last week — as volunteers.
“One family.” “Two families.” The greeter would call out and boxes of meat and milk, peaches and pudding were loaded into trunks and onto back seats.
There were cars newer than ours, but also people on foot with bags, backpacks and grocery carts. No doubt the need varied, but the line was so relentless that there was no time to judge who was worthy or not.
A group of high school students helped us. These young women brought not just an energy but a hope to the battle against hunger.
We encouraged them to load the cars. There they would be able to meet the hungry as people, to look into their eyes, to hear their words of gratitude.
Perhaps some of those young women will volunteer again. Some may recall this experience later when they hear Jesus tell others, “When I was hungry you fed Me.”
The Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev wrote: “If I am hungry, it is a material problem: but if another is hungry, it is a spiritual problem.”
I think Jesus would agree.