Grow a Row – Plant a Row

Gleaning Your Garden to Help to Feed the Hungry

This article was inspired by the lovely and talented R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen, and follows in the footsteps of the late Betty Malone. It is one writer’s contribution, in response to a challenge to help feed those who can’t always feed themselves.

Hungry neighbours
I grew up hearing about hungry children in places like Bangladesh and Ethiopia. There were ads on television asking for funds to help feed these faraway children with swollen bellies and sunken eyes – children who seemed so weak they wouldn’t move to brush away the flies that landed on them. Popular musicians were writing songs about their suffering, and school kids were donating their lunch money to pay for food, clean water and medical care.

Hunger was a phenomenon that belonged elsewhere. Not in Canada, nor in the United States, where everyone had a nice house and a Daddy who worked hard to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. We all had new schools, and shiny bikes with banana seats, and new clothes and shoes that our Moms bought even before we outgrew the ones we already owned. We went to bed with full bellies every night, because no one in North America ever went hungry.

Obviously, reality was a little different for other kids. Probably some of them were my neighbours. Maybe some went to school hungry in the morning, or climbed into bed with that gnawing feeling in their bellies, that comes just as much from worrying about where the next meal will come from as it does from the physical hunger itself.

There is hunger in North America, even today. Perhaps more now than when I was a child.

Some 794,738 people turned to food banks in Canada during March 2009, and close to 10 percent of these people were reaching out for help for the first time. Food bank use across Canada increased 18 percent between 2008 and 2009 – the largest increase ever on record. Even more troubling is the fact that some of the provinces usually seen as the most prosperous are among those with the highest increases in use: Ontario, British Columbia – Alberta saw an increase of 61 percent in just that one year.

Over half of Canadians who live on social assistance depend on a food bank so they can feed their families – a statistic that suggests assistance is not paying enough to cover the cost of day to day survival. Almost half of families who turn to food banks for assistance have young children, and those children make up 37 percent of the population haven’t got enough to eat. Single parent families, the disabled, and our country’s senior citizens are among the largest groups to seek out a food bank each year.

In the United States the situation is no better: one in eight households is affected by hunger, and some 13 million children do not have enough to eat. Demand at food banks in America has grown 70 percent in recent years, and hundreds of people are turned away each year because the food banks don’t have the resources to help them.

There is hunger in North America.

Centuries old tradition
Gleaning refers to the biblical practice of gathering up the leavings of a crop after the harvest is done. Farmers for centuries would leave some part of their crops in the field for neighbours in need, or for the stranger travelling through.

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Image: Wikipedia user Sedona

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