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Keep the generosity going beyond holiday season

I grew up eating a lot of pasta. We added macaroni to soup beans and made goulash with hamburger and tomatoes. We made chicken soup with egg noodles and bouillon cubes. We even ate spaghetti with ketchup when there was no pasta sauce.

There is almost no nutritional value to pasta, but it is a good stomach filler.

My mom was a single parent with eight children. We often struggled to have enough food to go around.

In the early days, we were on welfare and got commodities, then later food stamps were issued.

Contrary to what some people think, living is not easy when you are on welfare, especially where food is concerned. You can eat regularly the first two weeks of the month, but, by the third week, the rations dwindle severely and, by the fourth week, you may literally have to scrounge for food

As the youngest of us got a little older, Mom stopped welfare and started working two, or sometimes three, minimum wage jobs at a time.

Though working made her feel better about herself and was a wonderful model for us kids, it was harder financially than being on welfare.

The basic need for food became even more problematic. So pasta, potatoes and soup beans were the staples.

Actually the need for food is critical among American citizens, especially if you are a child.

This basic need for life is so critical that there is actually a term for this predicament: food insecurity. I’ve heard many debates about who is to blame for this crisis and who should be shamed for it.

The bottom line is we have people going to bed hungry every night and yet we are citizens in the land of plenty.

My heart is broken every time I see good food thrown away. For fear of being sued if someone gets sick, institutions who have banquets must put the leftovers in the trash. I have witnessed people rummaging in dumpsters outside of grocery stores to try to salvage discarded meats, cheese and other foods.

One woman told me, “We just cut of the moldy parts and eat the good that is left.”

Food insecurity has left its mark on many of us, even those of us who don’t have this concern today. My own daughters have learned that, if they ever say they are hungry, no matter what time of the day or night, I will go into the kitchen and cook a full meal to keep them from ever feeling as desperate as I did when a child.

I’ve heard it said that a poor mother will ask her children after a meal, ‘Did you get enough?’

A middle class mother will ask, ‘Was it good?’ A wealthy mother will ask, ‘How was the presentation?’

None of these questions are bad. They just make us aware of the varying concerns from family to family.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. This is the day that we celebrate our abundance of blessing. Our celebration focuses around the people we love, who have walked the journey of life with us. And we share our love with the luxury of the best foods available  to us.

This holiday season sparks generosity from individuals of every walk of life. Would you consider continuing your generosity even after the holiday season?

Consider donating boxes of pasta to your church pantry or free-food bank. Of course, give more than pasta if you can, but when you donate, would you think of me?

 

Nora Swango Stanger, a Lawrence County native and Appalachian outreach coordinator for Sinclair Community College, can be reached at norastanger@gmail.com.