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Thread: Hunger - Connect with the Problem

  1. #1

    Hunger - Connect with the Problem

    Hi everyone,

    I believe that one of the things that helps us all be “engaged” with a topic is if we have a personal connection to it or if we at least understand that it doesn’t exist in some far-off place; but instead is also probably right next door.

    For this discussion I would like everyone to do one or more of the following:

    1. Find statistic from your local area. Look for numbers that are really for an area that you consider “home” or close enough that they will affect how you look at the people around you.
    2. Share a story, do you have a personal story of how hunger affected you or someone you know? (Remember you can share with Gojo, just include the information in the email).
    3. Reflect on how these stories and information affect how you feel about hunger and if they have changed your view of the problem.

    You don’t need to do all of these at one time, take some time to look around, see what others post and discuss what is coming up.

    Some information for my neck of the woods:

    For Los Angeles County we have about 1 in 15 households who are experiencing food insecurity. Remember that LA County includes many many areas which middle class and many that are upper class. This number may seem low but once I saw it I knew that it means a lot of people in lower-income are suffering. It seems that 30.4% of lower-income households have food shortages… 1 in 3 low income households aren’t sure what they will eat next.

    There has been a steady increase from 18.9% in 2002 until now, and it is continuing. Which is very surprising because all indicators are that the economy is getting better and people are getting back to work. But unfortunately, in LA housing is a huge problem. While the economy is getting better, renters are paying more and more (up 32%) and at the same time wages are going down.

    Interesting to note is that what is considered a lower-income household is a family of four taking in $71,000 or less. When I was a kid we had a family of six who lived for many years off of less than that. But times are getting worse and worse.

    Another major problem in Los Angeles is transportation. One of the areas which has the highest rate of food insecurity is on the far outskirts of LA County. There isn’t much transport from that are to other areas where there is more work and resources. Residents in that valley will often get stuck there because they can’t afford to move any where else and then have little choice but to commute for hours (no joke) to work low wage jobs, with gas costing going up and up this also drains resources. Do you fill your car with gas to get to work or get groceries?




  2. #2
    Hi all

    In the UK it has been well reported that since the financial crisis in 2008, the number of food banks in the UK and reliance on them has increased massively. This is not just as a result of people being out of work or not receiving their benefits on time (although the latter has also become worse due to changes made by the Department of Work and Pensions) but people on low pay such as nurses have often been found to need emergency food at times.

    The Trussel Trust keeps statistics on the number of emergency three day food parcels it gives out and this has risen from around 900 000 in 2014 to 1.3 million last year. In my own area (SE England), there were over 120 000 emergency food parcels given out in the last twelve month period (

    This is also only recording the food parcels given out by one organisation (albeit probably the largest) and there are many more nationwide networks and local church and charity groups. I know that near to me there are food banks at least in Canterbury, Dover and Deal.

    My children's primary school had a drop-off point for donations of food but now they are no longer there I don't tend to donate as much. If I could, I would like to give time as well as food to a food bank charity.

    The last thread on food deserts was interesting to me as, although the county of Kent where I live is known for its production of fruit and vegetables, for many on low wages, that makes no difference as they can only afford basic pre-packaged food rather than the fresh produce.

    I am going to find out how I can best go about donating food now and where the closest drop-off point is. I have noticed before that once I make a habit of ordering a couple of extra things on the weekly grocery shop, that just happens automatically.

    Thank you for the continuing threads on this subject, Shoka.


    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  3. #3
    After a small amount of research, I have found the website of my nearest food bank which lists all of the drop off points for food and has an updated lists of the items they most urgently require.

    I have subscribed to their newsletter and now just have to do the hardest bit of persuading my eldest daughter to take stuff to a drop-off point!

    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  4. #4

    Hunger - Connect with the Problem

    I live in Kansas City and according to the Harvesters website 1 in 7 are considered food insecure in my area. When it comes to helping others, I think local is a good place to start. I see homeless people on a daily basis. I don’t have to look for the hungry. They are right in front of me. There are some in our Sangha who could use help as well.

    Last edited by Troy; 04-29-2018 at 10:29 PM.

  5. #5
    Japan is a prosperous nation, but there is a very poor social safety net. Also, another fact is that most Japanese don't like to display their poverty or other problems, so hard to tell by looking at someone who might be poor and hungry (for example, stories exist of unemployed men who still dress each day as if they are going to the office, to keep up appearances for the neighbors).

    In Japan ...

    Nearly 16 percent of two-parent Japanese families are financially unable to provide enough food for their children — this figure jumps to 32 percent among single-parent households.
    As a leader in child nutrition programs, Japan is tackling food insecurity by improving its meal programs for children who live in food-insecure households.
    Non-profit organizations such as Second Harvest Japan help fight hunger in Japan by serving 100 families, 75 percent of which are single mothers, with weekly or monthly food shipments.
    Tough economic times can and do happen everywhere in the world. Even in wealthy, developed countries like Japan, some folks struggle every day to make ends meet. Sometimes, those people are families with young children.

    Childhood hunger is a worldwide problem, and while no one deserves to go hungry, it is an especially sad situation for children. For one thing, they can’t really do anything to help better their situation, and secondly, they need the food and nutrition to help their bodies continue to grow properly. In Japan, approximately 16% of two-parent families are financially unable to provide enough food for their children, and that number jumps to 32 percent for single-parent households, according to a 2012 survey. But there are some who refuse to stand by doing nothing and are dedicating themselves to feeding the hungry children in Japan.

    Across the country, kodomo shokudo, literally “kids cafeterias,” are being established by citizens hoping to help fill the empty bellies of undernourished children in their area. The kodomo shokudo initiative began in 2012, with the efforts of a fruit and vegetable shop in Tokyo’s Ota Ward, and has since started spreading nationwide.
    A food bank in Tokyo (apparently, the only one). I did not know until just now ... I need to find out more ...

    Gassho, J


  6. #6
    As a former school lunch recipient in the United States (where breakfast can also be provided at school at reduced rates or free of charge for the poor), I can attest to how hungry my siblings and I were during the summer months. As an adult, I have the priviledge of working with organizations who open their facilities and distribute “school” lunches during the summer months.

    It’s important to remember in the US that less than 5% of the children that receive school lunches have access to that benefit in the summer months.

    Gassho, Rendulic

    SatToday LAH

  7. #7
    Thus have I heard:

    When I was young my parents both worked full time jobs, and they were pretty good jobs. But it often happened that ends didn't quiet meet.

    I vividly remember one time, some bill had shown up that we weren't prepared and had to be paid. It was a Saturday and the next paycheck wasn't until the following Friday. I was maybe in sixth grade at the time, but my parents didn't have the luxury of hiding our problems from the kids.

    I remember my mom figuring out if she would have enough gas to get to and from work all week so she could get paid, and was probably going to make it. But she would have to cash her pay check at lunch and so she could have gas for driving home Friday. There wasn't public transportation to take her from home to work, nor money to pay for it. So we would all be hoping she didn't run out of gas.

    My older brother and I started getting all the food in the house out. Everything was put on the counter so we could figure out how to eat for the week. I remember getting meat out of the freezer that was pretty badly freezer burned, but we decided to make a soup with it. There were strange cans of vegetables (probably from previous trips to the food pantry) which we would figure out what to do with.

    But I most vividly remember a huge can of cooked apples. I have no idea why we had this can, again it probably came from the food pantry at some point. But wasn't used because it was really meant for making pies.... but we didn't have the things to make pies. So it had sat in the pantry waiting, until this moment.

    We didn't have much fresh fruits or veggies left in the house, and they would all be used over the weekend. So for the following week we packed those apples in little tubberwares to go in our tiny lunches. We added cinnamon and sugar to make it seem like a treat. But the reality was by the end of the week, my lunch was half a peanut butter sandwich (because we were running out of bread), and those apples. I didn't play with my friends at recess and lunch because I was hungry and running around made it worse.

    We made it until Friday, mom had enough gas to get to work, got her paycheck and we survived another disaster. We probably celebrated the victory with pizza.

    To this day if I start to worry about food, I think about those damn apples. Slimy, overcooked, they weren't meant to be eaten on their own. But I ate them merrily everyday, pretending it was a "special dessert". The facade was for school friends who I didn't want pity from, for my younger siblings who didn't yet understand what was going on, and for myself so maybe I didn't worry as much about the next meal.
    "May all sentient beings in the universe be sufficiently nourished."

    互助 - Gojo Bodhisattva

    互 - mutually;  reciprocally;  together
    助 - help;  rescue;  assist

    Gojo is no-one. Gojo is everyone. Together we manifest the hands of the Bodhisattvas!

    Please, bear witness and share reports of kindness and compassion in the world:

  8. #8
    In doing some more research around my area, I found a local food pantry which is an interfaith group. Their history is very interesting to me, they started out as just a small closet in one church. But then quickly saw a greater needed than they could possibly fulfil. They reached out to other churches and groups in the local area to see if they could come together to do more. And they have. Currently they have 10 different groups who work together to run the pantry. They have two distribution sites and service about 1,000 families.

    I really like to read the literature of these groups and learn how they make every cent go as far as possible. This groups lists that with $1, they can buy an 18 oz jar of peanut butter. I don’t think I could ever find a deal that good. Also they say with a $1 they can by food for about 4 meals. This is because they can buy in bulk through charitable organization which give them ever better deals.

    Sadly in reading the literature, I did find out that each family can only receive one package from the pantry a month. And that package contains about 3 days’ worth of food. Which leaves me to wonder what they do for the other 27 days a month?

    In another article I had posted previously I read about one family who kept a detailed list of the local soup kitchens and food panties so they could rotate between them and get enough food each month. But thinking about that it feels like a full-time job just to know where and when to go so you can get food.

    One other item that I thought of in looking around me locally was how difficult it was to find the resources. And I have a computer, internet and a phone. But navigating for what is near me, who to call and where to go was difficult. I can’t imagine when you are hunger, and don’t have the same resources how it would be possible to find the resources that could help you.



  9. #9
    Sorry it took me so long to get to this. I have been aware of several food donation programs and drives in my area over the years, and have contributed sporadically over the years via collection jar in the lobby of my business, as well as sending in food for the kids' school drives and leaving it in the mailbox for the post office drives... but I am embarrassed to say I didn't know that most of these local charities depend on a large regional food bank that is just a 20 or 30 minute drive from my own business.

    I have learned that the food insecurity rate is around 13% in Albany and Schenectady counties, disproportionately higher for people of color, and was surprised to learn that 9 census tracts in each county were considered "food deserts." These are the areas where public transportation would be too costly for people to use to get food, and where nothing but fast and convenience food is available within walking distance.

    One good thing is that the info I found was from last year, before Uber and Lyft came to the area... Taxis around here are crazy expensive. So these new options are probably making things better for folks.

    Now that I have the information about the Regional Food Bank, I can make plans to visit and donate time the way we did in Oakland on our retreat. I think Nicole would go with me, she enjoyed our morning there. But the website also has easy instructions for donating food and money as well. For anyone in the Capital District of New York:

    Thank you Shoka for helping me get the ball rolling on this!

    清 道 寂田
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  10. #10
    BTW, for anyone wishing to contribute to this thread but not sure where to start, try just Googling "Food Insecurity in ______ County" and put in your County or local area, to find the extent of your local need and how your area is doing. For ways to help, you could try searching "Food Bank" and your zip code or county. The biggest obstacle I found to searching out the answers I wanted was wading through all the individual charity sites and looking at their statistics, locations and dropoff points, requirements for volunteering, etc. As Shoka says, it must be pretty labor intensive for the families using these charities to eat. But for those of us looking to volunteer or donate, we can go right to the source, i.e. the food bank itself.

    清 道 寂田
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

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