As I started out on this journey, and occasionally over the past few months, there have been two recurring questions I get asked: Why am I doing what I’m doing and what do I hope to accomplish. When asked a version of one of these questions I often get a lump in my throat and my pulse quickens. I think to myself maybe my effort is just folly. What can I hope to accomplish? Then I remind myself that not everyone is aware of the plight of those experiencing hardships and having a difficult time obtaining adequate food. Or some people may just be curious why I picked this cause. Additionally, answering these questions periodically reminds me why I became active in assisting those who are food insecure and keeps me focused on the goals I would like to achieve.
So why am I doing what I’m doing and what do I hope to accomplish? Over the past several years I have been increasingly frustrated with the trendency to blame those in poverty, the insistence that they are in their predicament through some fault of their own or a flaw in their character or the belief that they lack a strong work ethic or feel entitled to a handout from the government. For a humorous, yet spot on, criticism of one media outlet’s negative characterization of those struggling to make it, check out this clip from John Stewart. Those negative stereotypes are not the reality I have experienced when interacting with people less fortunate than I am. I feel compelled to state that just because I have witnessed very little abuse of the assistance provided to those in need, does not mean that I am suggesting it does not exist. Rather I believe it is the exception, not the norm. I have encountered more people working one or more jobs and still not being able to make ends meet, or people who were doing okay until some catastrophy hits, like the loss of a job or unexpected medical bills. The norm is more like Simcha Fisher’s experience, which she chronicled in her blog. Please follow the link and read it. I guarantee it will make you think about how our society views people in poverty.
I grew so tired of hearing the disparaging comments about people who needed assistance, that I decided to channel my frustration into action and do something to help the situation. But what? I wanted to make sure my assistance would be appropriate to the need. Too many times people, with good intentions, try to provide help in unintentionally unhelpful ways. I had some ideas of my own, but decided to volunteer locally to see the reality of the situation in my community. I also created this blog in hopes of sharing my ideas and getting feedback on them, as well as additional ideas.
Before attending the recent conference on hunger, my husband suggested I work on my elevator pitch. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, an elevator pitch is a short synopsis of your idea or vision that you could share with someone during the time span of the average elevator ride. It was a good exercise and served to answer the question of what I hope to accomplish. Here it is:
Short term goal I would like to create recipes, using ingredients found in the food bank or pantry, to make available to clients of that food bank or pantry. These recipes would focus on healthy items like fresh fruits and vegetables or unprocessed proteins like chicken, hamburger and beans.
Longer term goal I would like to start a non-profit business to provide food banks and pantries with items used in healthy cooking that are not regularly found there, like spices, flour and condiments like vinegar. Additionally, I would like this non-profit to provide cooking utensils, implements and small appliances, like crock pots or hot plates, at a reduced cost to those unable to purchase them in regular outlets.
Ultimate goal I would like to sponsor classes, or a series of classes, that would focus on cooking, healthy eating, budgeting and shopping.
Putting your ideas out for the world to see is intimidating, at least it is for me. It is a little bit easier answering those questions now, having started down the path, than it was before I started. I do not know how long it will take me to accomplish my goals or whether they will remain unmodified. I do know that I have received interest and encouragement from most people with whom I have shared my ideas and that encouragement motivates me to keep going. For now I am following the advice of Ghandi and trying to be the change.
Nice article, Jen. One of your best.