September is Hunger Action month, and so ye ol blog is going orange in support. Here's why:
Just over a year ago, I was exhibiting at a conference for a tech company that I occasionally work for, one that creates software to track and treat foster children in major US cities. I went to dinner one night with colleagues - this guy and one of the nation's leading experts on foster-child care and treatment. We sat talking and a few minutes after our food came, when Jim and Janet were just getting started with theirs, I realized that mine? It was gone.
So now I'm totally freaking embarrassed, like I am every single time this happens in front of people howthehelldoesthiskeephappeninginfrontofpeople? let alone a Harvard grad and a seriously big-deal colleague, and so of course Jim diffuses the situation for me like he always does - by finding a way to compliment me for it. "Shannon eats fast, like it's her superpower fast." Janet looked at me, smiled, and said, "Aaahh, you're food-insecure." I minimize the whole thing, saying, "I'm just a fast eater. My brother is a fast eater, too. We're fast eaters." and she said, "Oh, honey, no you're not." She pointed at her full plate, then my empty one, and said, "THAT'S food insecurity."
I am your average thirty-something, middle class, slightly overweight, white mother of three kids and a dog, and I am food insecure, from growing up so far below the poverty line we couldn't even see it.
And I didn't even know it. But now I do, because I was able to talk about it. And you know what? I don't feel so ashamed about it anymore.
There are so many stories I have to tell about growing up right next door to middle class white suburbia and literally starving. I want to tell you about the woman who, out of her own pocket, made every hungry child in our neighborhood breakfast one day a month. I want to tell you about the people who showed up on my doorstep one night with a bag full of Thanksgiving dinner and changed the direction of my life. I want to talk about how caustic silence is, how easy it is to question yourself and blame yourself when you're surrounded by a bunch of people who refuse to acknowledge the emaciating elephant in the room.
I want to talk about how important it is to acknowledge the emaciated elephant in the room, and do something - anything- about it. I weighed 45 pounds in middle school and no one questioned it. That's not okay.
I want to talk about how easy it is to help the 1 in 5 children in America right now who are thanking god right now that school is back in session, because they at least know they'll get one hot meal a day until their next break. I want to talk about the changes schools have made to help those children never know the shame I knew of being the free lunch kid, helping them not make the choice to go hungrier because they can't bear hunger and ridicule.
September is Hunger Action month, and I am so super proudly donating my time, my blog, my social networks, and my stories to Feeding America to help spread awareness about the hunger crisis in our country. 1 in 5 children know what I know, and that is 1 in 5 kids too many. No one should know what I know, not here, not waaaay over there on some other continent, not anywhere.
Giving people access to food, especially real food, is life-changing. Showing people there is no shame in needing is life-changing. Helping people - tossing good, real, whole food into the donation tubs, or working at the food bank, or giving your kids' teacher some snacks to hand out to a kid she sees didn't get any breakfast again - is life-changing. Giving $1 to help organizations like Feeding America feed up to 8 families, that is huge. Talking about these issues in your community, with your neighbors and friends and peers and colleagues and children, this changes people's lives. Helping a parent feed their kids without them having to ask you for that help first tells those parents and those kids that they matter to you, they matter to someone, they are worth something.
Anything makes a difference, and everything matters. Visit Hunger Action Month's info page at Feeding America to learn how you can help. Turn your avatars on Facebook and Twitter orange here, to show your support.
Talking about this also changes lives. I'll be posting about this regularly through the month. I hope you're able to join me.