Don’t deflate Meals on Wheels

There are basic needs we have in our quest for a basic human existence. We need love. We need food and water. We need shelter. These are the bare minimum of things that we need to have a good life. Certainly, we can exist with these items in varying measures, but they are essential to being.

To risk sounding like a scratched record and looping a bad refrain, I’m at a loss here trying to figure out how this country arrived at Donald John Trump as a solution to any problem. I’m baffled. How did we default to Trump? Rational-me understands the climate that made him possible, but — wow, what a misstep.

The budget proposals that are coming from this administration to drastically cut money for programs that the most vulnerable depend upon are draconian. They simply are not OK.

When Meals on Wheels delivers food, it is more than a hot meal being given to someone in desperate need of food: For some of these people, these deliveries are their only contact with another person. Some delivery people are the only ones who know that these folks are alive.

These meals serve 500,000 veterans yearly, and, again, the delivery people serve as an important point of contact to people who have given their lives and, for many, their sanity for a nation that repeatedly turns its back to them. For a nation that gloats about the military, we do a terrible job of caring for those veterans.

In Kentucky, between 15 and 20 percent of senior citizens struggle with food insecurity. Nationally, the number is about one in six.

I firmly believe that statistics don’t help us understand the importance of what it means to be hungry. It is cold data. It has no tears to shed and no face to be designated as the face of the hungry. It can’t speak back. Data is easy to ignore. People are not. These budget cuts will affect real people, some who you may know.

I don’t have any personal stories about starving, because I’ve never been hungry. My parents managed, even in the leanest times, to put something on the table. There were times they were scared that they wouldn’t be able to provide a meal, but they were young and healthy. They managed to scare up enough money to get something. When I was in school, there was the availability of free lunch. It wasn’t a luxury handout, and knowing that you were poor enough to qualify was a source of shame.

For that past few years, I’ve worked as a part of the Art on the Parish Green committee. The art fair raises money for a weekly soup kitchen at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in New Albany. Many of the committee members cook and serve in the kitchen.

The people who come to eat don’t always look poor. They don’t look like the families in Somalia who are starving to the point of emaciation, covered in flies and scooping rice pudding from metal bowls. The poor in America are often unseen. Perhaps our ability to hide the ugly parts of our society is one of our best Victorian holdovers. We throw shutters over the things we don’t wish to see. We hate to see poverty but we do so little to end it. Because of our aversion to, and secret affection for, our own dirty colonial past, we’ve managed to sanitize poverty.

I guess what I’m getting at is just because being poor in America comes with clothing, televisions and cheap cell phones — this doesn’t erase the devastation of being poor. Poverty isn’t fun. It isn’t iPhones and glamour. Being poor is long hours, the hardest work with the least respect. Being poor is being trapped into doing the most to be given the absolute least and then having wealthy council folk and politicians argue about whether you deserve a shade more to make life a bit easier.

To end programs such as Meals on Wheels is simply gross. The rationalizations about why it is necessary to take food from the mouths of the old, and others who are food insecure, presents a dilemma that all American communities should be united in rejecting.

I’m not going to consider why people who eat from golden plates want to take a Styrofoam box from a lonely old man. I will only consider those who will be hurt and ask that we all stand up for them.

About the Author

Don’t deflate Meals on Wheels

Erica Rucker is LEO Weekly’s Arts & Entertainment Editor. In addition to her work at LEO, she is a haphazard writer,  photographer, tarot card reader, and fair to middling purveyor of motherhood. Her earliest memories are of telling stories to her family and promising that the next would be shorter than the first. They never were. You can follow Erica on Twitter, but beware of honesty, overt blackness and occasional geeky outrage.

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