Sunday, May 1, 2016

No Free Lunch

Here in the 19th wealthiest county in the nation, we are without a metropolitan area unless you count the piece where I live, which is lumped together with part of St. Mary's county. We have a lot of farms in either county, so there should be no lack of wholesome food.

That being the case, what is behind the long-standing campaigns to grow and distribute free food to the "hunger community" in our area? Do such organized efforts alleviate long-term poverty? Do they invite outsiders desperate for food?

Two programs that stand out most are Farming4Hunger and End Hunger in Calvert County. Farming4Hunger appears to have the more honest appellation, since hunger might be a product of their efforts. Ending hunger is, of course, impossible and disingenuous as a campaign name.

The phrase "hunger community" is used in the annual report of Farming4Hunger and smacks of a caste system that implies separation of persons who rely on handouts for food. Joining the hunger community could enable a person to leave aside at least some of their struggle for basic necessities and enjoy some of the finer pleasures of life such as a home, a car, and pets.

Wait..., did I just say that a home, car, and pets are not necessities? Millions of Syrians and other migrants have come to that conclusion. The pets actually were probably temporary necessities for a meal or two, but the home and car were left behind, becoming aspirations once again as raw survival became the prime motivator.

The struggles of these refugees will go on for decades,
Photo by Stu Mayhew (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
mainly so their children may enjoy a better life. The irony is that many of them have a better chance of dealing with the economic turmoil ahead than the staid classes among whom they have infiltrated. What of those here in the 19th richest county in the USA who are insulated from those hardships. Will their children know how to dig themselves out?

Stasis. That is what is behind food giveaways. We want big ag to continue, so we have programs like Farming4Hunger that says the way to get food is through farming as we know it, and supports farmers who can't sell part of their crop on the market. We want people to think well of our charity, either as churches or corporations, so we sponsor programs like End Hunger in Calvert County which should be looking for ways to put themselves out of business, but seem interested in endless growth.

This stasis will not bring stability. Our current food system and growth paradigm is unsustainable. People need to be taught how to grow food and protect the soil. Those things, in themselves, are a struggle for anyone, but there's really no free lunch.

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