Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Seeing Hunger in My Neighborhood


By Sandra Joireman

I live in the affluent Western suburbs of Chicago with my family. My husband and I are both employed. Because I have two teenagers at home, I usually shop at less expensive grocery stores, as our food bills are fairly high. Just recently, I made a trip to the store to get some food for my son to take on a four-day youth group trip. Much of what I was buying was not healthy food: chips, some trail mix, fruit snacks, chocolate-covered pretzels, and other items for him to eat while he was on the bus.  The sum total of what I was buying was a bit less than $20.

In the checkout line, I was just behind a young man who was about the same age as my son. As his groceries were running through, he pulled out an EBT card, used to purchase food with SNAP benefits (food stamps). He told the cashier he had only $30 left on it. She said, "You have more than $30 worth of stuff. Pick what you don’t want." Chicken, soup, pasta, cheese, and — the only extravagance in any of his purchases — two bottles of sports drink were all moved to the back of the conveyor belt.  

On the conveyor belt, my purchases were separated, by the plastic bar, from what he could not buy. The inequality of life was captured for me in that image. On my side, all sorts of frivolous food items being purchased by a mother for her child, who is going on an adventure; on his side, the bare necessities of life, purchased by a young man with a lot of responsibilities at home. I turned to him and said, "I would be honored if you would allow me to buy the rest of these items for you." He agreed.  I paid the $10.19 that made up the remainder of his bill not covered by the EBT card.  He thanked me, took his groceries, and left the store.

I am deeply unsettled by what happened. I don’t know the name of that young man, but I know that he is a child of God. I think about the differences between his life and the life of my son, the same age, living in the same community. Food is a necessity of life. There are people around us, even in affluent communities, who are struggling to meet their basic needs with SNAP. It is an important program that provides a very basic level of nutrition and little else. Even in these times of fiscal contraction, it is important for Christians to support a circle of protection around those programs that provide for the needs of people in our communities—people who are just like our mothers, aunts, grandfathers, and children.           

Sandra-joireman-web1Sandra Joireman is Bread for the World's board chair and professor of political science at the University of Richmond. 




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What a kind gesture - I have done this myself and I felt moved by the plight of those in these troubled times. I bought a lemon for 79 cents the other day and although I am very comfortable myself...I was astounded by the cost of the food. The minimum wage has not risen, but food, clothing, housing, gas, medicine and education sure have. Blees you for your kindness.

I am glad there are some people in the world who care and seem to lead a life that is what Jesus would , instead of just talk. The attacks on the poor are happening so often and it is so discouraging. I worked all my life-sometimes two jobs or three-to raise four kids. A lady who worked at the food stamp office had kids in the same school as my son, junior high, and one day he went to school and these kids were taunting him calling him a "welfare baby" because we were on foodstamps.I vowed to work hard enough to get off of them. I have raised all my kids now, but now have a terminal illness at age 52 and I I have to use foodstamps and social security disability.So much negative regarding people like me who need these things to get by.People do not know the stories nor do they much care in many instances. This was a heart warming story. Thank You!

So good to hear this account of gracious giving reminding us that we can all share more and more often. Sharing with a close friend or family member is an enriching experience which Jesus encourages us to build upon by pushing out our boundaries to include anyone we meet who needs our help.

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