Today my kids inadvertently learned that some people don’t have enough food to eat. I didn’t aim to make it a “teachable moment” but when I mentioned that I was buying food for the local food pantry, H Boy didn’t quite follow what I was saying. That some people might not have food was a foreign concept to him. 
The second lesson of the day centered around internal conflict while walking past boxes of pasta and beans. The plight centered around our contribution to the church’s food pantry and my basic and strong convictions that half of what is sold at the grocery qualifies as “food” in only the sense that it is, in fact, edible.
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Food pantries notoriously need non-perishable items because of the nature of their work. We just don’t know how long an item will sit on the shelf before heading home, let alone be opened. So the list of needed items contained canned soup, boxed pastas and pre-packaged meals. Do you know what keeps those meals consumable for months and years on end? Salt. 
Take a guess at the leading cause of death among those living in poverty (in the US) for ages 20-59. That’s right. “Diseases of the circulatory system.” (According to Google search, this is heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, atherosclerosis…). Yes, I’m sure stress plays a role in the health of those living in poverty, among other factors. However, ask anyone under a doctor’s care for these issues and they’ll say the instructions start with cutting out sodium. 
As I heard once, our problem with salt doesn’t come from a shaker. It comes from a can. 
But it’s exactly what is requested on behalf of those who deal with hunger on a regular basis. 
I actually said aloud, “Kids, I wouldn’t let you eat this.” Why would I want someone else’s kids to make a diet of it? Doesn’t loving others as I love myself translate into how we treat the body and the ways in which we nourish it? 
Some say, well, at least they’re eating. I agree, hunger is a real battle we’re fighting. But if we only focus on hunger and not nutrition, how will we help others live well? And is eating really the only goal? 
Others try to provide healthier versions of the requested foods, but I have trouble thinking my Aunt Annie’s will make a huge difference and instead I join the battle for cost-effectiveness. I could feed 3 families for the price of my one Aunt Annie’s purchase. Quantity over quality, right?
I’ve also heard, if they don’t care, why should I? But I’m not convinced people in poverty don’t care. Perhaps they just aren’t in a position to care to the same extent. Everyone has a choice, but the level to which we’re empowered to make difficult choices varies across economic status. 
JJ and I made a conscious decision to allow more freedom in the food budget for quality fruits, veggies and meats. We feel it will pay off in years to come in co-pays, deductibles and medical costs. But finding dollars in the pocketbook for good food isn’t the same option for everyone, including non-profits who feed the hungry.
In an ideal world, we would have means to buy fresh and cook food. We could provide places that those who lack appliances other than microwaves would be able to prepare a meal for their families. I suppose, in an ideal world we invite our neighbors,who we know are struggling, to eat from our own table, in communion with us. Instead we give our conscious the excuse that “if they were hungry, there are places that can help them. I give food to the pantry every month. That’s what it’s there for.” 
I ended up purchasing as many seemingly better options – low-sodium soups, canned chicken and tuna, the spaghetti sauce we buy with considerable less sodium, and the requested pastas and mac ‘n cheese. But I need to say a prayer as I deliver these goods that we move in a direction of health for all people, not just the ones who can afford it. I still don’t know what that looks like, but I know $0.87 mac ‘n cheese doesn’t have the answer. 
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