How Hunger Hides in Plain Sight in the United States

More than enough food is currently produced to cover the hunger gap around the globe. Yet hungry people exist in many communities. When people see that, they wonder if God keeps God’s promises. After all, Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about what they’ll eat because God provides (Matthew 6:28-33). So why are there so many people in the world?

The answer may have more to do with our stewardship than God’s faithfulness. God does provide. It’s just that we have a problem with distribution, food waste, and equity.

Christians for Social Action has often been the outward manifestation of Ron Sider’s book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. Though it’s not the official reason the organization started, in many ways, we’ve been associated with the concepts Ron presented—a challenge to Christians to look at the difficulties of the world and ask the question, “How does my faith inform how I respond?”  

But I’ve made hunger abstract.  Over the years, I think that I began to unconsciously replace the word “hunger” with the word “injustice.”  While at a recent policy briefing in DC, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me. It felt like a call to remember those who experience hunger.  I don’t mean the spiritually hungry—of which there are many—but rather those who hunger for food.  This month, Christians for Social Action will focus on hidden hunger and the various ways that it shows up in communities.  Our hope is that as “rich Christians,” which is anyone able to read this electronic article (access to the internet puts you in the top 62% of the global population), we will respond to hunger.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been startled by a revelation of the invisible hunger that exists in my neighborhood, a suburb of Washington DC.   I joined a “Buy Nothing” group, which is a group of folks who share and give away stuff.  Baby clothes are very popular, as are toys.  But it was a post by someone in my neighborhood relaying her empty cabinet and still being a week away from payday, that stopped my late-night, mindless scrolling.  About 30 people responded with offers of extra food, rides to the grocery store, etc. To me, this feels like a picture of God’s hope for the church.

While our church has always hosted a food pantry and participated in providing meals and other things, those activities always kept hunger at arm’s length.  But the “Buy Nothing” Facebook group I mentioned earlier became the unexpected vehicle God used to wake me up.  I joined a couple of months ago, as a friend regaled me with stories of kindness and generosity he had experienced.  Well, perhaps more accurately, that’s what got me interested. But it was the reality that we had a box of things to give away, that my church wouldn’t take, that finally pushed me to the point of looking up the group and clicking the “Can I join?” button.

Each hour, people posted items—“Socks! A half-eaten cake! Kids clothes!”—and each hour many people raised their hands—“Interested!” 

Suddenly, I began to see the connections in their disparate stories in the various stories I’d heard from people I’d met over the years: stories of college campuses creating food pantries, of creative interventions churches were making, of black farmers trying to turn a profit on their family farms.  

For the month of June, we’re going to focus on stories of hunger—hidden hunger—in the United States.  In September, the Farm Bill is supposed to be passed, and I’ve appreciated the leadership of Bread for the World in helping to advocate for the hungry, for farmers of color, and for the environment in this important bill.  It is an opportunity to do some good every five years. One of our articles this month will feature ways that Christian communities can participate in this important bill.

Our hope is that the CSA community will pray for eyes to see the places of hidden hunger in our communities and also in our world, and that God would grant us the grace to respond by putting our faith into action.

Nikki Toyama-Szeto is the Executive Director of Christians for Social Action.

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