|Tunafish sandwiches on buns|
Summertime, and the livin' is easy (Porgy & Bess by George Gershwin, 1934)
Ah, the lazy, hazy days of summer. Unlike the staccato pace of a 24/7 lifestyle, summertime conjures up images of sweet tasting R&R - escaping with a pulp fiction novel while nestled in a tree slung hammock, walking on the beach at late afternoon’s golden hour, taking a dip in the ol’ swimming hole, or just chilling with munchies and a cold one. Bottom line, no cares in the world.
Not so if you’re hungry. And it don’t matter whether the fish are jumpin', or your daddy's rich and your ma is good-lookin’. You can’t hush your belly, when it’s crying.
Most of us are fortunate not to know that gnawing feeling in the pit of our stomachs, but that’s what too many kids face as they sprint out the door on the last day of the school year. Summertime hunger is an extended version of what some kids deal with every Friday afternoon from September to June as the cafeteria buttons up and rests until Monday lunchtime.
But it doesn’t have to be. We can help. We can make tunafish sandwiches.
It is a shameful fact that here in the US of A, the greatest food producing nation on earth, upwards of 50 million Americans frequently worry where their next meal will come from, and when they’ll have it. A third of those Americans are kids. As hard as that is to fathom, it gets worse. Despite all the energy, open land, and the majority of our freshwater gobbled up to produce America’s cornucopia, 40 percent goes uneaten. That’s the equivalent of tens of billions in cash flushed away.
Meanwhile the wasted food piles up and rots in landfills wafting methane into our already challenged air. Cutting the waste by just 15 percent would make enough food available to feed half those hungry Americans. Fixing this food challenge, just like the myriad of other cracks in our systems, is an immense undertaking … but it is not insurmountable.
OK, there are cracks, but it’s through those cracks that light filters in. The rays create illumination enabling work to start on repairs. A Talmudic teaching also shines light for the way forward - "It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.”
This is where tunafish sandwiches, and Willing Hands come in.
My wife and I are fortunate to spend summers in New Hampshire’s Upper Valley Region. There’s a lot to love here, but all that goodness doesn’t mask the coexisting needs. That’s one reason we connected with Take a Bite Out of Hunger. In an impressive, precision fashion, the program mobilizes teams of volunteers working out of Vermont’s Hartford Middle School Cafeteria kitchen to make, pack, and distribute lunches to area families and children. Last summer Take a Bite supplied over 12,000 meals. Grant and donation monies are used to purchase food and more is provided by area farmers, grocers, and bakers. These local food producers are expert in creating top-shelf quality food … and they hate to see it go to waste. Sometimes their output out paces what can be harvested. That’s when the call goes out for gleaners.
So what’s a gleaner? Willing Hands, a local non-profit has the answer. Like the lunch makers of Take a Bite Out of Hunger, Willing Hands dispatches teams to designated farms to pick surplus corn, potatoes, blueberries, you name it, any fruit or veggie which would otherwise be left to whither on the vine. In just one of our hour and a half stints, my team gleaned 150 pounds of potentially abandoned ripe blueberries. Not surprisingly, some of the blueberry trays turned out at Hartford Middle School the next day. We didn’t feed all the hungry, but we made a dent in the problem.
"It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.”
This incremental approach means that the goal may not be reached in one generation. Each generation will improve the world as far as it can, then it must pass on the mission to the next generation, until the goal is reached.
In the meantime, we can help. We can make tunafish sandwiches.
all images ©David Greenfield