Thanksgiving thoughts: giving thanks for those who feed the hungry in a land of plenty
Monday is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. I have much to be thankful for. There are people around me with troubles and struggles. And yet, most of them also have much to be thankful for. This weekend, many Canadians will gather with family and friends over a turkey dinner and a table laden with food. Some will eat so much they can hardly move. And, still, there will be leftovers.
There are people in Canada who will not have a Thanksgiving dinner, unless it is at a mission, and who struggle to get enough to eat each day. According to the HungerCount 2012 survey, close to 900,000 Canadians are assisted by food banks each month, a 31% increase since 2008. 38% of those served are children and youth.
Winnipeg Harvest is a non-profit organization providing emergency food assistance to nearly 64,000 people each month across the province of Manitoba. 47% of their clients are children. Seniors and refugees have nearly doubled food bank use since 2010.
In a country as rich as Canada, it seems unfathomable that people would go hungry. Sometimes the problem appears insurmountable. The news of hope is that there are people striving to address the issue. HungerCount makes broad-reaching, systematic recommendations that require strong political will and vision. Recommendations include increasing affordable housing, ensuring adequate pensions, and investing in social programs. Others work at the grassroots level, helping individuals as they can, through food banks, meal programs, and training programs.
I recently served dinner at The Urban. The Urban Ministry is a non-profit organization helping children and families in Winnipeg’s inner city rise above their circumstances. One of the things they do to build a community of hope is serve meals three times a week. Meals are cooked and served by meal teams from various churches. The evening I worked, we served 58 people chili, bread, and bananas. Each family took home a large bag of tomatoes, donated by a local farmer and a local garden market.
The Urban Ministry also hosts children’s reading circles, a parenting support group, a ladies cafe, Bible study, family breakfasts, and Friday family fun nights. And the program that most intrigued me, the Crock Pot Cooking Club.
The Crock Pot Cooking Club is a six-week cooking class. Each class has six participants, who receive a brand new slow cooker and a bag of new materials for food preparation. The materials include measuring cups and spoons, good knives, a parer, a cutting board, a colander and bowl, stirring spoons, a spatula, a ladle, and a set of spices. Because the participants generally don’t have a car and either bus or walk many blocks to the church housing the mission, they are also given a new carry cart.
Each week, the class learns a new recipe. When the group arrives at class, they first sample the dish, prepared in advance by the teaching team. Then they get to work making it for themselves, substituting ingredients to their own needs. Learning how to make substitutions in a recipe is important because these people don’t have a lot of control over their food choices. They rely on what they get from food banks. As they prepare the dish, discussions on nutrition take place. At midday, they put their slow cooker of prepared ingredients in the carry cart, and take it home. Liquids are added at home. They plug in the slow cooker and the meal is ready by dinner time, a meal they often share with their neighbours. All ingredients are supplied by the program. Their bag of materials stays at the church to use the next week, when they return with their cleaned and empty slow cooker. At the end of the six weeks, they take the slow cooker and their bag of materials home to keep.
This is just one example of a program and a group working to make a difference. If you look around you, you will find many others, people dedicated to helping others make a better life.
So this Thanksgiving, give thanks for the blessings in your life, the food on your table, and the people who work to feed and help others. Maybe someday, food banks and meal missions will be a relic of the past, something no longer needed.