Hunger in the land of plenty

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Growing up, I never went hungry. I never even really thought about what it meant to be hungry.

I was fortunate that I was guaranteed three meals a day with snacks in between and dessert at night.

When I went to the grocery store with my parents I was usually able to pick out whatever foods I was interested in and we were able to afford them. Of course my parents supervised what we ate, but I was never told “no” to a food item because we couldn’t afford it.

Looking back on where I grew up in Alpharetta, I didn’t know too many other children who were hungry or going without food. Going over to friends’ houses for dinner or having a snack after school was never an issue.

We just didn’t have to worry about where our next meal was coming from. We were, and still are, extremely fortunate.

But not every family is like mine or my friends’families.

At the end of the last school year, Forsyth County Schools had over 700 students deemed homeless. And while they weren’t living on the side of the road, they were sleeping in tents, couch surfing or sharing tiny apartments with multiple families.

And as if housing wasn’t enough of a worry, I can only imagine how they struggled to get food every day.

While I knew of people in the general sense who go hungry, I never realized just how much this issue touches our communities. The Place of Forsyth recently held a hunger awareness luncheon where visitors were given various plates of food that represented what people of different levels of incomes would eat each day.

The meal started with a small bowl of rice and beans, continued to a plate of boxed mashed potatoes and canned ham and ended with a full plate of fresh green beans, potatoes and meatloaf.

We were told stories of how some seniors in the community are homebound, and because of that they may run out of food or rely heavily on processed foods.

Executive Director Joni Smith told a story about children attending a day camp who said their favorite part of the week was “getting to eat real food.” These kids were overjoyed to have a consistent breakfast, lunch and snacks throughout the week.

Think about that. They were happy to just have food. Something I, along with many others I would think, take for granted every single day and meal.

When I open my refrigerator or pantry, the shelves may not be bursting at the seams but they are full and I have my choices of meals to prepare.

I am even so privileged as to have the option to be a vegetarian and choose to not eat meat. Many people in our country and counties don’t have that luxury of deciding to not eat certain items. They eat whatever is available and affordable.

The awareness luncheon really opened my eyes to the needs of our community. It proved that although we may look around and see others who look just like us or “don’t look hungry or homeless,” they are there.

I know this experience, short as it may be, will forever change how I look at hunger and need in our community.

I can only say “thanks” to groups like The Place for taking on something like this. Joni told me she often hears of people who don’t know how to help the needy. That’s where she and her group step in. Monetary and food donations, both boxed and fresh, go a long way.

Together we can lessen the amount and the extent of need in our community.


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