Feeding Hungry Children

Think therefore, what it must be like for a single mother trying to get her hungry children to do their homework, when none of them had dinner. Think what it must be like to look for a job all day when breakfast and lunch are just flashing signs on the outside of restaurants you pass.

So let’s look at hunger and what we can do – first on a global level, and then on a personal level – what we might do here, in Buffalo and Western New York to decrease the number of hungry people and the extent that hunger is a problem.

First, the big picture.

Of the total U.S. government’s federal budget, foreign aid represents 1 percent. And most of that money goes to Israel and Egypt.

We Americans spend 100 times as much money on makeup — or fast food — or video rentals — in one year than we do on feeding starving children in Third World countries in a decade.

The developed nations have the ability and technology to knock out a dozen serious childhood diseases in under-developed nations with less money than we as a society spent on — Beanie Babies.

The Buffalo News had a story last Sunday that reported that the same number of people – one-point-two billion – who are under-nourished are also overweight. Think about how ironic that is. If we could just merge the amounts of food that half the world gets with what the other half doesn’t, we would end world hunger.

Ha! You’re saying. No way.

Well, that’s true in a literal sense. We can’t share the lunch we had today with a starving flood victim in Mozambique or a school child in North Korea.

But we can do something very close to that right here, in our own backyard.

A little more than 10 years ago, Ann Klocke started an outfit called the Food Shuttle of Western New York. I’m proud to say that one of Ann’s many motivations for starting it was a series that we did in The News about “Hunger in Buffalo.” It ran over Thanksgiving week in 19-88 and I’m so glad that Ann was one of the people who read it. Working out of St. Gregory the Great, she enlisted 35 volunteers that first year.

Food Shuttle is based on a simple and effective idea — Move surplus food from where it is not needed to people and places that need it.

So for 10 years, every day, volunteers all over Western New York have driven to Wegmans and Tops and Tim Horton’s and restaurants of all types and collected the day-old fruit, vegetables, bread, cakes, donuts and the like from those places. The volunteers then delivered the food in plastic dinnerware sets in their cars, vans and trucks to food pantries and churches and public housing tenants’ groups all over the region.

Ann has since moved to Chicago. But Food Shuttle President Rita Eichenger said it now has 150 food providers serving 125 local recipient agencies. And there have been hundreds of volunteers.

Tons and tons and tons of food that would have gone into the dumpster instead went to people who needed it. Through the foresight and cooperation of the suppliers and with the coordination of dozens of people, extra food went to the hungry.

The main reason I’m here tonight is to talk to you about Food Shuttle. I did Food Shuttle every Saturday for three years – probably wearing out the shocks on our van in the process. And I would urge all of you to consider heeding this call.

Because as much as I liked helping to solve a problem in our city and ease some people’s hunger — I also was thrilled that my three children took turns going with me, helping me move that food.

They learned that there were people in their city who were perhaps a little different looking than them, some had different color skin, some moved in unusual ways, or looked at them oddly or wore clothes that weren’t fresh from the Gap. Some even needed a dentist, a doctor, or a shower.

They saw first hand – without my lecturing to them – that not everyone is fortunate enough to grow up in a safe house, with food at their fingertips, a school that they like and vacations to warm, sunny places.